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Identifying multiple stressor controls on phytoplankton dynamics in the River Thames (UK) using high-frequency water quality data

Bowes, M.J.; Loewenthal, M.; Read, D.S.; Hutchins, M.G.; Prudhomme, C.; Armstrong, L.K.; Harman, S.A.; Wickham, H.D.; Gozzard, E. ; Carvalho, L.. 2016 Identifying multiple stressor controls on phytoplankton dynamics in the River Thames (UK) using high-frequency water quality data. Science of the Total Environment, 569-570. 1489-1499. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.06.239

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Abstract/Summary

River phytoplankton blooms can pose a serious risk to water quality and the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems. Developing a greater understanding of the physical and chemical controls on the timing, magnitude and duration of blooms is essential for the effective management of phytoplankton development. Five years of weekly water quality monitoring data along the River Thames, southern England were combined with hourly chlorophyll concentration (a proxy for phytoplankton biomass), flow, temperature and daily sunlight data from the mid-Thames. Weekly chlorophyll data was of insufficient temporal resolution to identify the causes of short term variations in phytoplankton biomass. However, hourly chlorophyll data enabled identification of thresholds in water temperature (between 9 and 19 °C) and flow (<30 m3 s−1) that explained the development of phytoplankton populations. Analysis showed that periods of high phytoplankton biomass and growth rate only occurred when these flow and temperature conditions were within these thresholds, and coincided with periods of long sunshine duration, indicating multiple stressor controls. Nutrient concentrations appeared to have no impact on the timing or magnitude of phytoplankton bloom development, but severe depletion of dissolved phosphorus and silicon during periods of high phytoplankton biomass may have contributed to some bloom collapses through nutrient limitation. This study indicates that for nutrient enriched rivers such as the Thames,manipulating residence time (through removing impoundments) and light/temperature (by increasing riparian tree shading) may offer more realistic solutions than reducing phosphorus concentrations for controlling excessive phytoplankton biomass.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.06.239
CEH Sections: Rees (from October 2014)
Watt
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Keywords: algal bloom, eutrophication, automated monitoring, chlorophyll, water quality, nutrients
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Hydrology
Chemistry
Date made live: 19 Jul 2016 10:08 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/513968

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