Predicting river phytoplankton blooms and community succession using ecological niche modeling

Bowes, Michael J. ORCID:; Hutchins, Michael G. ORCID:; Nicholls, David J.E.; Armstrong, Linda K.; Scarlett, Peter M.; Jürgens, Monika D. ORCID:; Bachiller-Jareno, Nuria ORCID:; Fournier, Isabelle ORCID:; Read, Daniel S. ORCID: 2024 Predicting river phytoplankton blooms and community succession using ecological niche modeling. Limnology and Oceanography.

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Excessive phytoplankton concentrations in rivers can result in the loss of plant and invertebrate communities, and threaten drinking water supplies. Whilst the physicochemical controls on algal blooms have been identified previously, how these factors combine to control the initiation, size, and cessation of blooms in rivers is not well understood. We applied flow cytometry to quantify diatom, chlorophyte, and cyanobacterial group abundances in the River Thames (UK) at weekly intervals from 2011 to 2022, alongside physicochemical data. A niche modeling approach was used to identify thresholds in water temperature, flow, solar radiation, and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentrations required to produce periods of phytoplankton growth, with blooms only occurring when all thresholds were met. The thresholds derived from the 2011 to 2018 dataset were applied to a test data set (2019–2022), which predicted the timing and duration of blooms at accuracies of > 80%. Diatoms and nano-chlorophyte blooms were initiated by flow and water temperature, and usually terminated due to temperature and flow going out of the threshold range, or SRP and Si becoming limiting. Cyanobacterial bloom dynamics were primarily controlled by water temperature and solar radiation. This simple methodology provides a key understanding of phytoplankton community succession and inter-annual variation and can be applied to any river with similar water quality and phytoplankton data. It provides early warnings of algal and cyanobacterial bloom timings, which support future catchment management decisions to safeguard water resources, and provides a basis for modeling changing phytoplankton bloom risk due to future climate change.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0024-3590
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: eutrophication, algal blooms, nutrients, River Thames
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
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Date made live: 07 May 2024 13:25 +0 (UTC)

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