Limited information is available on the interactions between environmental factors and algal growth in tropical and subtropical aquatic systems. We investigated the relationships between algal biomass (measured as chlorophyll, Chl-a) and light, total phosphorus (TP) and total nitrogen (TN) in longitudinal zones of subtropical reservoirs. We studied the seasonal variation of water variables in Itupararanga Reservoir (Brazil) and compared the results with 16 other subtropical lakes and reservoirs. The longitudinal zones in Itupararanga Reservoir were considered statistically different (p 0.05, MANOVA). From the riverine zone to the dam region of the reservoir, Spearman Correlation Test suggested that light limitation and TP limitation tended to decrease and increase, respectively. Although nitrate concentrations were high (400 g/L), the Spearman coefficients between Chl-a and TN and the TN:TP ratios (11:1 TN:TP 35:1) indicated that nitrogen may be co-limiting algal growth in the studied water body. Putting Itupararanga in a regional context allowed assessment of potential influences of land use on trophic state. Within the subtropical dataset, TP explained a greater percentage of variance in Chl-a (R2 = 0.70) than TN (R2 = 0.17). The main land use type within the reservoirs drainage area significantly influenced the concentrations of TP, TN, and Chl-a (p 0.05, MANOVA), with different relationships between nutrients and chlorophyll in forested (R2 = 0.12-0.33), agricultural (R2 = 0.50-0.68) and urban (R2 = 0.09-0.64) watersheds. Comparisons with literature values and those from reservoirs with less altered watersheds indicated that Itupararanga Reservoir is reaching the mesotrophic-eutrophic boundary, and further nutrient enrichment could cause water quality degradation.