A new method for measuring certain forms of phosphorus - the nutrient often responsible for algae blooms that devastate fish populations in lakes - has identified a major but previously overlooked source of the phosphorus that may heavily contribute to water quality problems, researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom are reporting.
In the study, Phil Monbet and colleagues point out that two types of dissolved phosphorus, organic and inorganic, contribute to eutrophication, the overgrowth of algae. Presently, however, scientists and water pollution control officials rarely measure or pay attention to dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP).
The new procedure recognizes that enzymes present in aquatic environments can convert DOP into inorganic phosphorus, releasing it to fuel algal growth. It overcomes the limitations of current phosphorus measurements, providing more accurate data on the potential of discharges from sewage treatment plants to contribute to eutrophication.
"This work quantitatively highlights the potential of DOP to contribute to eutrophication in natural waters as a result of enzyme hydrolysis," the report states.
The study "A Protocol to Assess the Enzymatic Release of Dissolved Organic Phosphorus Species in Waters under Environmentally Relevant Conditions" is scheduled for the Nov. 1 issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology.
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