Determination of bioavailable phosphorus in water samples using bioassay methods.

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Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


The total phosphorus analyte (TP) has a long history of use in monitoring and regulatory applications relating to management of cultural eutrophication in freshwaters. It has become apparent, however, that the fraction of the TP analyte ultimately available to support algal growth varies significantly spatially (within a system), seasonally, and among systems. The algal bioassay methods described here provide an approach for determining the bioavailable fraction of the three operationally defined components of TP: soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP), and particulate phosphorus (PP) in effluents and tributaries discharging to lakes and reservoirs. Application of the technique facilitates a quantitative ranking and targeting of bioavailable phosphorus sources for management.•One congruent method to fractionate particulate and soluble phosphorus (found in aquatic samples) into bioavailable and unavailable fractions was developed based on compilation, adaptation and expansion of two methods from the late 1970s and early 1980s.•Detailed descriptions for culturing phosphorus-starved algae, sub-sampling schedules, kinetics determination, and data presentation are provided•Reproducibility is demonstrated by replication and closure of a mass balance on phosphorus.

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