Phosphorus removal from the hyper-eutrophic Lake Caohai (China) with large-scale water hyacinth cultivation

A phytoremediation project involving the large-scale cultivation of water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms) was conducted in Lake Caohai (China) from May to November during 2011-2013 to remove pollutants and decrease eutrophication. Water hyacinths were cultivated in two areas of Lake Caohai, Neicaohai and Waicaohai, which are connected and function as a relatively independent water body. The areas for macrophyte growth varied in size from 4.30 km2 in 2011 to 0.85 km2 (2012) and 1.15 km2 (2013). Compared with historical data from 2007, the concentrations of total phosphorus decreased significantly, while dissolved oxygen concentrations increased slightly. After plant cultivation in 2011, the average concentrations of total phosphorus, total dissolved phosphorus and phosphate anions decreased from 0.54, 0.35 and 0.23 mg L-1 upstream (river estuaries) to 0.15, 0.13 and 0.08 mg L-1 downstream (Xiyuan Channel), respectively. The amount of phosphorus assimilated by the macrophytes (44.31t) was more than 100% of the total removed phosphorus (40.93 t) from lake water when water hyacinths covered 40.9% of the area, which could indicate sedimentary phosphorus release. Our study showed the great potential of utilizing water hyacinth phytoremediation to remove phosphorus in eutrophic waters.