, Volume 82, Issue 3, pp 291–304 | Cite as

Evaluation of ammonium and phosphate release from intertidal and subtidal sediments of a shallow coastal lagoon (Ria Formosa – Portugal): a modelling approach

  • Dalila Serpa
  • Manuela Falcão
  • Pedro Duarte
  • Luís Cancela da Fonseca
  • Carlos Vale


During an annual cycle, overlying water and sediment cores were collected simultaneously at three sites (Tavira, Culatra and Ramalhete) of Ria Formosa’s intertidal muddy and subtidal sandy sediments to determine ammonium, nitrates plus nitrites and phosphate. Organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus were also determined in superficial sediments. Ammonium and phosphate dissolved in porewater were positively correlated with temperature (P < 0.01) in muddy and sandy sediments, while the nitrogen-oxidized forms had a negative correlation (P < 0.02) in muddy sediments probably because mineralization and nitrification/denitrification processes vary seasonally. Porewater ammonium profiles evidenced a peak in the top-most muddy sediment (380 μM) suggesting higher mineralization rate when oxygen is more available, while maximum phosphate concentration (113 μM) occurred in the sub-oxic layer probably due to phosphorus desorption under reduced conditions. In organically poor subtidal sandy sediments, nutrient porewater concentrations were always lower than in intertidal muddy sediments, ranging annually from 20 μM to 100 μM for ammonium and from 0.05 μM to 16 μM for phosphate. Nutrient diffusive fluxes predicted by a mathematical model were higher during summer, in both muddy (104 nmol cm−2 d−1––NH 4 + ; 8 nmol cm−2 d−1––HPO 4 −2 ) and sandy sediments (26 nmol cm−2 d−1––NH 4 + ; 1 nmol cm−2 d−1––HPO 4 −2 ), while during lower temperature periods these fluxes were 3–4 times lower. Based on simulated nutrient effluxes, the estimated annual amount of ammonium and phosphate exported from intertidal areas was three times higher than that released from subtidal areas (22 ton year−1––NH 4 + ; 2 ton year−1––HPO 4 −2 ), emphasizing the importance of tidal flats to maintain the high productivity of the lagoon. Global warming scenarios simulated with the model, revealed that an increase in lagoon water temperature only produces significant variations (P < 0.05) for NH 4 + in porewater and consequent diffusive fluxes, what will probably affect the system productivity due to a N/P ratio unbalance.


Ammonium Coastal lagoon Geochemical processes Modelling Phosphate Ria Formosa 



This work was has been supported by several projects developed within the IPIMAR (National Institute of Fisheries and Sea Research) and by the EU funded Project DITTY (Development of Information Technology Tools for the management of European Southern lagoons under the influence of river-basin runoff) in the Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development programme of the European Commission (EVK3-CT-2002-00084). The authors would also like to thank Prof. Dr. Leonor Fonseca for her helpful commentaries on the manuscript and to M. L. Inácio for her help in field and laboratory work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dalila Serpa
    • 1
  • Manuela Falcão
    • 1
  • Pedro Duarte
    • 2
  • Luís Cancela da Fonseca
    • 3
  • Carlos Vale
    • 4
  1. 1.Environmental departmentINIAP/IPIMAR – CRIPSul, Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e das Pescas – Centro Regional de Investigação Pesqueira do SulOlhão, AlgarvePortugal
  2. 2.CEMAS, Centro de Modelação e Análise de Sistemas Ambientais Universidade Fernando PessoaPortoPortugal
  3. 3.FCMA, Faculdade de Ciências e do MarUniversidade do AlgarveFaroPortugal
  4. 4.INIAP/IPIMAR, Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e das PescasLisboaPortugal

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