Modelling lake cyanobacterial blooms: disentangling the climate‐driven impacts of changing mixed depth and water temperature

Gray, Emma ORCID:; Elliott, J. Alex; Mackay, Eleanor B. ORCID:; Folkard, Andrew M.; Keenan, Patrick O.; Jones, Ian D.. 2019 Modelling lake cyanobacterial blooms: disentangling the climate‐driven impacts of changing mixed depth and water temperature. Freshwater Biology, 64 (12). 2141-2155.

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1. Climate change is already having profound impacts upon the state and dynamics of lake ecosystems globally. A specific concern is that climate change will continue to promote the growth of phytoplankton, particularly blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, via lake physical processes including warming surface waters and shallowing of the mixed layer. These two mechanisms will have different impacts on lake phytoplankton communities, but their inter‐connectedness has made it difficult to disentangle their independent effects. 2. We fill this knowledge gap by performing 1666 numerical modelling experiments with the phytoplankton community model, PROTECH, in which we separated the independent effects on lake phytoplankton of temperature change and changes in the depth of the surface mixed layer. Given the large global abundance of small lakes (<1 km2) and the importance of their ecosystems in global processes and budgets, we used a small meso‐eutrophic lake as an example study site for the modelling experiments. 3. Increasing the lake temperature and positioning the mixed layer at a shallower depth had different ecological impacts, with warming typically resulting in more biomass and a dominance of cyanobacteria. 4. The response to mixed depth shallowing depended on the original depth where mixing occurred. As anticipated, where the original mixed depth was moderate (4–6 m) and there was a simultaneous increase in water temperature, cyanobacterial biomass increased. However, when the same absolute difference in shallowing and temperature increase were applied to a deeper mixed depth (9–13 m), lower cyanobacterial biomass resulted, owing to poorer conditions for low‐light tolerant cyanobacteria. 5. Our study shows that the response of cyanobacterial blooms to climate‐induced warming and shallowing of mixed layers in lakes around the world will not be universal, but rather will be system‐specific, depending upon the average mixed layer depth of the lake in question and the light affinity of the dominant cyanobacteria species.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0046-5070
Additional Keywords: climate change, phytoplankton, Planktothrix, PROTECH, stratification
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 21 Oct 2019 16:31 +0 (UTC)

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