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Dynamics of Harmful Cyanobacteria Blooms in Vancouver Lake, WA

Principal Investigators: Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens, Stephen Bollens
Students: Jennifer (Duerr) Boyer, Tammy Lee, Vanessa Rose
Funded by: Vancouver Lake Watershed Partnership, Washington State Department of Ecology, Clark County (WA) Department of Public Works, State of Washington Water Research Center, USGS
Award period: 2007-2016

Project Summary:

Eutrophication of lakes and reservoirs has contributed to an increase in the magnitude and frequency of harmful cyanobacterial blooms; however, the interactive effects of nutrient availability (eutrophication) and other abiotic and biotic drivers have rarely been comprehensively studied in the field. We undertook a unique 8-year (2005-2013) research program that assessed the interaction of multiple factors driving cyanobacterial blooms in Vancouver Lake, a large, shallow eutrophic lake in Washington, USA. Our program consisted of nearly continuous monthly or weekly monitoring of water quality and plankton community composition over eight years, as well as multiple zooplankton grazing experiments over three years. We found a relatively consistent seasonal succession of phytoplankton and zooplankton assemblages, and a pattern of interacting factors influencing cyanobacterial bloom dynamics. Typically, a combined effect of decreased dissolved nitrogen (N), a sudden increase of dissolved phosphorus (P), and a cascading effect of zooplankton grazing created a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that promoted the rapid proliferation of cyanobacteria over the 2-3 weeks before a bloom. At the blooms’ peaks, cyanobacterial carbon biomass reached as high as 20 µg L-1, with total [chl a] often exceeding 750 µg L-1. In the weeks following the blooms’ peaks, [PO4-P] and [NH4-N] dropped and copepod feeding rates fell to near zero, whereas microzooplankton grazing rates reached their maxima. Microzooplankton grazing impact, combined with low nutrient availability, then drove down cyanobacteria abundance. Vancouver Lake serves as a model for understanding multiple, interacting drivers of cyanobacterial bloom dynamics in shallow, temperate lakes, and is therefore an important system in which to investigate new questions related to the science and management of harmful algal blooms.

Publications/Presentations resulting from this project:

Rose+ V, Rollwagen-Bollens G, Bollens S.  (2017)  Interactive effects of phosphorus and zooplankton grazing on harmful algal blooms in a shallow temperate lake.  Hydrobiologia 788: 345-359.

Lee* T, Bollens S, Rollwagen-Bollens G, Emerson J.  (2016)  The effects of eutrophication and invasive species on zooplankton community dynamics in a shallow temperate lake.  Fundamental and Applied Limnology 188: 215-231.

Lee* T, Rollwagen-Bollens G, Bollens S.  (2015)  ­­­The influence of water quality variables on cyanobacteria blooms and phytoplankton community composition in a shallow temperate lake.  Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 187: 315.

Lee* T, Rollwagen-Bollens G, Bollens S, Faber-Hammond J.  (2015)  Environmental influences on cyanobacteria abundance and microcystin toxin production in a shallow temperate lake.  Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 114: 318-325.

Rollwagen-Bollens G, Bollens S, Gonzalez A, Zimmerman J, Lee* T, Emerson J.  (2013) Feeding dynamics of the copepod Diacyclops thomasi before, during and following filamentous cyanobacteria blooms in a large, shallow temperate lake.  Hydrobiologia 705: 101-118.

Boyer* J, Rollwagen-Bollens G, Bollens S.  (2011)  Microzooplankton grazing before, during and after a cyanobacterial bloom in Vancouver Lake, Washington, USA.  Aquatic Microbial Ecology 64: 163-174.