, Volume 169, Issue 1, pp 245–256 | Cite as

To bloom or not to bloom: contrasting responses of cyanobacteria to recent heat waves explained by critical thresholds of abiotic drivers

  • Veronika HuberEmail author
  • Carola Wagner
  • Dieter Gerten
  • Rita Adrian
Global change ecology - Original research paper


Past heat waves are considered harbingers of future climate change. In this study, we have evaluated the effects of two recent Central European summer heat waves (2003 and 2006) on cyanobacterial blooms in a eutrophic, shallow lake. While a bloom of cyanobacteria developed in 2006, consistent with our expectations, cyanobacterial biomass surprisingly remained at a record-low during the entire summer of 2003. Critical thresholds of abiotic drivers extracted from the long-term (1993–2007) data set of the studied lake using classification tree analysis (CTA) proved suitable to explain these observations. We found that cyanobacterial blooms were especially favoured in 2006 because thermal stratification was critically intense (Schmidt stability >44 g cm cm−2) and long-lasting (>3 weeks). Our results also suggest that some cyanobacterial species (Anabaena sp.) benefitted directly from the stable water column, whereas other species (Planktothrix sp.) took advantage of stratification-induced internal nutrient loading. In 2003, conditions were less favourable for cyanobacteria due to a spell of lower temperatures and stronger winds in mid-summer; as a result, the identified thresholds of thermal stratification were hardly ever reached. Overall, our study shows that extracting critical thresholds of environmental drivers from long-term records is a promising avenue for predicting ecosystem responses to future climate warming. Specifically, our results emphasize that not average temperature increase but changes in short-term meteorological variability will determine whether cyanobacteria will bloom more often in a warmer world.


Climate change Cyanobacteria Heat wave Polymictic lake Thermal stratification 



We thank all IGB scientists and technicians who have been involved in the collection and compilation of the long-term data set of Müggelsee. We are especially grateful to Thomas Hintze and Helgard Täuscher who helped during the preparation of the raw data. The German Research Foundation (DFG) supported Veronika Huber and Carola Wagner within the priority program AQUASHIFT (AD91/12-1; SPP 1162), and Rita Adrian and Dieter Gerten within the LakeRisk Project (AD91/13-1).

Supplementary material

442_2011_2186_MOESM1_ESM.doc (687 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 687 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Veronika Huber
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Carola Wagner
    • 2
  • Dieter Gerten
    • 3
  • Rita Adrian
    • 1
  1. 1.Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research WarnemündeRostockGermany
  3. 3.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany
  4. 4.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany

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