Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 31, pp 31776–31789 | Cite as

Factors that control the spatial and temporal distributions of phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon in the sediments of a tropical reservoir

  • Sheila Cardoso-SilvaEmail author
  • Paulo Alves de Lima Ferreira
  • Rubens César Lopes Figueira
  • Daniel Clemente Vieira Rêgo da Silva
  • Viviane Moschini-Carlos
  • Marcelo L. M. Pompêo
Letter to the Editor


The impacts of anthropic activities have had profound effects on the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles in many aquatic ecosystems. We investigated the spatial and temporal distributions of carbon (C), N, and P in the sediments of a tropical Paiva Castro Reservoir (São Paulo, Brazil), as well as their release and retention in the system. In 2010, surface sediments were collected at nine sites in the reservoir, and a core was obtained in the limnetic zone, in 2010. The core was dated using the 210Pb technique. The organic C content was estimated from organic matter concentration, which was measured by the loss-on-ignition method, and the concentrations of P and N were determined by spectrophotometry. Marked spatial heterogeneity in the Paiva Castro sediments associated with both natural variations in the water body and variations induced by human impacts was observed. Heterogeneity was evidenced by a decrease in the allochthonous contribution of organic matter (C/N) in the upstream-downstream direction and increases of N and P, mainly associated with water flows in the different compartments of the reservoir. In the core, C and N concentrations display significant positive correlations with increases in population and agricultural activities in the drainage basin through time. The C/P molar ratios in surface sediments are indicative of human impacts in the region, as C:P ratios in the sediment are low (7.8:1) compared to the Redfield ratio (C:P = 108:1). Predominance of oxic conditions at the sediment surface and particles sizes < 63 μm provided favorable conditions for P retention in the sediments, which helps prevent eutrophication. Approaches used in this research should be extended to other locations, especially in mesotrophic and oligotrophic reservoirs, to provide information on historical impacts in such aquatic ecosystems.


Anthropic impacts Eutrophication Nitrogen Paleolimnology Phosphorus Reservoir Sediment core 



We are grateful to the Postgraduate Program in Environmental Sciences, at the Sorocaba campus of UNESP, to the Ecology Department at the Biosciences Institute and the Chemistry Department at the Oceanographic Institute of the University of São Paulo for technical assistance. The authors thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments which have improved the quality of our manuscript and Dr. Diego Javier Perez Ortega for clarifying some questions about geoprocessing.

Funding information

Financial support for this work was provided by FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, grant no. 470443/2008) and CAPES-PNPD (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_2923_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 14.9 kb)
11356_2018_2923_MOESM2_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 15.3 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheila Cardoso-Silva
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paulo Alves de Lima Ferreira
    • 2
  • Rubens César Lopes Figueira
    • 2
  • Daniel Clemente Vieira Rêgo da Silva
    • 3
  • Viviane Moschini-Carlos
    • 1
  • Marcelo L. M. Pompêo
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences ProgramSão Paulo State University – UNESPSorocabaBrazil
  2. 2.Chemistry Department, Institute of OceanographyUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Ecology Department, Institute of BiosciencesUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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