Impact of iron addition on phosphorus dynamics in sediments of a shallow peat lake 10 years after treatment

Melanie A. Münch*, Rianne van Kaam, Karel As, Stefan Peiffer, Gerard ter Heerdt, Caroline P. Slomp, Thilo Behrends

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Internal phosphorus (P) loading is a key water quality challenge for shallow lakes. Addition of iron (Fe) salts has been used to enhance P retention in lake sediments. However, its effects on sediment geochemistry are poorly studied, albeit pivotal for remediation success. Here, we assess the factors controlling the retention of P and long-term effects following application of FeCl3 (0.5–1 mol Fe/m2, 2010) in the eutrophic, shallow peat lake Terra Nova (the Netherlands). Treatment reduced P levels in the lake for two years, but afterwards summer release of P intensified, resulting in higher surface water P concentrations than before treatment. Porewater and sediment analyses indicate that the majority of the added Fe is still undergoing redox cycling within the top 10 cm of sediment accounting for the binding of up to 70 % of sedimentary P. Sequential extractions further suggest that organic matter (OM) plays a key role in the resulting P and Fe dynamics: While reduction of P binding Fe(III) phases results in P release to porewaters, the produced Fe2+ remains bound to the solid phase presumably stabilized by OM. This causes P release from the sediments in excess to Fe during temporary low oxygen conditions in summer months, as confirmed by whole core flux incubation experiments. Quantitative coprecipitation of P with Fe upon reoxygenation of the water body is then impossible, leading to a gradual increase in surface water P. This first long-term study on a shallow peat lake underpins the role of OM for Fe cycling and the need to carefully consider the sediment properties and diagenetic pathways in the planning of Fe-amendments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120844
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • Internal phosphorus loading
  • Iron treatment
  • Lake restoration
  • Sediment geochemistry
  • Shallow peat lake


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