Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 227-236

First online:

Quantitative responses of lake phytoplankton to eutrophication in Northern Europe

  • R. PtacnikAffiliated withNorwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) Email author 
  • , L. LepistöAffiliated withFinnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
  • , E. WillénAffiliated withSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
  • , P. BrettumAffiliated withNorwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)
  • , T. AndersenAffiliated withNorwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)Department of Biology, University of Oslo
  • , S. RekolainenAffiliated withFinnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
  • , A. Lyche SolheimAffiliated withNorwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)
  • , Laurence CarvalhoAffiliated withCentre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)

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Based on the currently largest available dataset of phytoplankton in lakes in northern Europe, we quantified the responses of three major phytoplankton classes to eutrophication. Responses were quantified by modelling the proportional biovolumes of a given group along the eutrophication gradient, using generalized additive models. Chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) was chosen as a proxy for eutrophication because all classes showed more consistent responses to Chl-a than to total phosphorus. Chrysophytes often dominate in (ultra-) oligotrophic lakes, and showed a clear decrease along the eutrophication gradient. Pennate diatoms were found to be most abundant at moderate eutrophication level (spring-samples). Cyanobacteria often dominate under eutrophic conditions, especially in clearwater lakes at Chl-a levels >10 μg l−1 (late summer samples). We compare the relationships among types of lakes, based on the lake typology of the northern geographic intercalibration group, and among countries sharing common lake types. Significant differences were found especially between humic and clearwater lakes, and between low- and moderately alkaline lakes, but we could not identify significant differences between shallow and deep lakes. Country-specific differences in response curves were especially pronounced between lakes in Norway and Finland, while Swedish lakes showed an intermediate pattern, indicating that country-specific differences reflect large-scale geographic and climatic differences in the study area.


Water framework directive Indicators Chrysophytes Cyanobacteria Diatoms