Like any other critters, organisms at the bottom of food chains need certain nutrients to thrive. One of those nutrients is phosphorus. Its availability, in the form of phosphate, in most lakes limits the growth of microorganisms including bacteria and phytoplankton.
Now, studies using a new technique indicate that common methods of measuring phosphate concentrations that scientists have used for decades have been routinely off by factors of 100 to 1,000. The latest analyses find phosphate at surprisingly low concentrations in 56 undisturbed lakes sampled throughout Canada.