Trophic State in Canterbury Waterways
Thesis DisciplineEnvironmental Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Aquatic eutrophication is a serious global problem, associated with phytoplankton blooms, hypoxia, and loss of species. The objective of this thesis was to advance understanding of stream and lake eutrophication within Canterbury (South Island, New Zealand). I investigated three key questions: 1) How do riparian characteristics control stream trophic state, 2) how does stream trophic state in the Canterbury region compare to stream trophic state nationally and internationally, and 3) what factors control trophic state in Te Wairewa/Lake Forsyth. I measured rates of stream community metabolism in 21 Canterbury streams over a gradient of riparian canopy cover, and conducted a literature review of national and international studies of stream metabolism. I also examined the occurrence of cyanobacterial blooms in Te Wairewa in relation to water quality and weather from 17 years of measurements, and performed series of nutrient addition assays on the lake to assess nutrient limitation. I found that riparian characteristics strongly controlled stream trophic state by shading, thereby reducing photosynthetic productivity. This overwhelmed the effects of high nitrate concentrations, which increased primary production. Compared to national and international rates of stream metabolism, Canterbury streams were strongly heterotrophic, with low rates of autotrophic production. Catchment streams draining into Te Wairewa were unlikely to be the main source of nutrients supporting large cyanobacterial blooms. Instead, internal lake nutrient loading mechanisms associated with calm weather were likely to supply blooms. My results emphasize the importance of light limitation, nitrogen and heterotrophy in controlling stream trophic state, and nutrient supply and weather in controlling lake trophic state.