, Volume 349, Issue 1-3, pp 99-109

Modelling vertical migration of the cyanobacterium Microcystis

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Computer models can be helpful tools to provide abetter understanding of the mechanisms responsible forthe complex movements of cyanobacteria resulting fromchanges in buoyancy and mixing of the water column ina lake. Kromkamp & Walsby (1990) developed a verticalmigration model for Oscillatoria, that wasbased on the experimentally determinedrelationship between the rates of density change andphoton irradiance in this cyanobacterium. To adaptthis model to Microcystis, we determinedrelated changes in carbohydrate content in cultures ofMicrocystis. Samples were incubated at variousconstant values of photon irradiance and then placedin the dark. The changes in carbohydrate content ofthe cells during these incubations were investigated.The relationship between the ratio of carbohydrate toprotein and cell density in Microcystis wasestablished to permit conversion of the rates ofcarbohydrate change to rates of density change. Byplotting the calculated rates of density changeagainst the values of photon irradiance experiencedduring the incubations, an irradiance-response curveof density change was established. The curve showed adistinct maximum at 278 µmol photons m-2s-1. At higher values of photon irradiance, therate of density change was strongly inhibited. Apositive linear correlation was found between celldensity and the rates of density decrease in the dark.The validity of the use of rate equations of densitychange, which are based on short-term incubations atconstant values of photon irradiance, to predictdensity changes in Microcystis in fluctuatinglight regimes was tested. This was accomplished bymeasuring the time course of change in carbohydratecontent of two continuous cultures of Microcystis, which were submitted to fluctuatinglight regimes, and comparing the results with thechanges in the carbohydrate contents of these culturespredicted by the rate equations of carbohydratechange. The results showed good agreement: the rateequations of density change were therefore introducedinto the model to simulate vertical migration of Microcystis. The model predicts that the maximummigration depth of Microcystis will increasewith colony size up to a maximum of 200 µm radius.The effect of colony size on the net increase in celldensity during the light period was also investigatedwith the model. It predicts that small colonies havea higher net increase in cell density than largecolonies, but are inhibited at high photon irradiancesat the surface.