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Global mapping of freshwater nutrient enrichment and periphyton growth potential

journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-21, 03:50 authored by Rich McDowellRich McDowell, Alasdair NobleAlasdair Noble, Peter PletnyakovPeter Pletnyakov, Brian Haggard, Luke Mosley
Periphyton (algal) growth in many freshwater systems is associated with severe eutrophication that can impair productive and recreational use of water by billions of people. However, there has been limited analysis of periphyton growth at a global level. We combined several databases to model and map global dissolved and total nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations, climatic and catchment characteristics for up to 1406 larger rivers that were analysed between 1990 and 2016. We predict that 31% of the global landmass contained catchments may exhibit undesirable levels of periphyton growth. Almost three-quarters (76%) was caused by P-enrichment and mapped to catchments dominated by agricultural land in North and South America and Europe containing 1.7B people. In contrast, undesirable periphyton growth due to N-enrichment was mapped to parts of North Africa and parts of the Middle East and India affecting 280 M people. These findings can be used to better target investment and actions at finer spatial scales to remediate poor water quality owing to periphyton growth.


Funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment's Our Land and Water National Science Challenge (Toitū te Whenua, Toiora te Wai) as part of project Phosphorus Best Practice


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  • English

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Journal title

Nature Scientific Reports

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