Phosphate is usually the most important growth limiting nutrient in aquatic environments. The availability of P is the result of external load and retention in the sediments. This latter is the result of a number of transport, microbial and chemical processes. The role of P in the productivity in systems and in the eutrophication process has initiated a large number of studies to the behaviour of P in sediments. Case studies in Veluwemeer, IJsselmeer, Wadden Sea and German Bight show that sorption on and binding in ferric (oxi)hydroxides, occlusion in calcium carbonates and authigenic mineral formation are the most important retention processes.
However, all this research did not result in totally new approaches in lake restoration, nor did knowledge of internal P loading result in large scale applications of well-known sediment restoration techniques. It did result in more realistic expectations of lake restoration programmes.
At the same time, renewed interest in the overall role of phosphate in the functioning and productivity of systems is emerging. The most important new items are: the role of the productivity is examined at large scale levels; the coupling of productivity with several large scale material cycles and global environmental problems and the study of the behaviour and fate of phosphate within the context of the functioning of entire watersheds.