, Volume 559, Issue 1, pp 401–411

Testing the Sensitivity of Phytoplankton Communities to Changes in Water Temperature and Nutrient Load, in a Temperate Lake

Primary Research Paper


Freshwater lakes are biologically sensitive to changes in the surrounding environment and the impacts that such changes have on their water quality are of considerable ecological, recreational and economic importance. In this study the phytoplankton community model, PROTECH, was used to experiment with the effects of elevated temperatures and increased nutrient load on phytoplankton succession and productivity. The response of a phytoplankton community to combined incremental changes in these drivers was analysed, in order to elucidate the resulting ecological changes. Annual mean phytoplankton biomass increased with increases in temperature and nutrient loading, although the latter had the larger effect. The phenology of the dominant phytoplankton taxa changed with increasing water temperature; the three spring blooming species all peaked earlier in the year. The simulated summer bloom of Anabaena became earlier in the year and the Chlorella bloom later. The increased phytoplankton biomass was largely dominated by the cyanobacterium Anabaena, which was especially prevalent during the summer bloom. This resulted in a progressive loss of phytoplankton biodiversity with increasing water temperature and nutrient supply. Model experimentation showed that whilst both factors greatly affected the community, the changes to nutrient loading generally had the greater effect and that at low nutrient levels the effect of water temperature change was reduced considerably. Finally, the model predicted that cyanobacteria have the potential to dominate the phytoplankton community, with clear consequences for water quality, and that this dominance was at its greatest when high water temperatures were combined with high nutrient loads.


biodiversity cyanobacteria phenology PROTECH 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Carvalho, L., Kirika, A. 2003Changes in shallow lake functioning: response to climate change and nutrient reductionHydrobiologia506789796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Edwards, M., Richardson, A. J. 2004Impact of climate change on marine pelagic phenology and trophic mismatchNature430881884CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Elliott, J. A., Thackeray, S. J. 2004The simulation of phytoplankton in shallow and deep lakes using PROTECHEcological Modelling178357369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Elliott, J. A., Thackeray, S. J., Huntingford, C., Jones, R. 2005Combining a Regional Climate Model with a phytoplankton community model to predict future changes in phytoplankton in lakesFreshwater Biology5014041411Google Scholar
  5. Gerten, D., Adrian, R. 2000Climate-driven changes in spring plankton dynamics and the sensitivity of shallow polymictic lakes to the North Atlantic OscillationLimnology & Oceanography4510581066Google Scholar
  6. Harper, D. 1992Eutrophication of freshwaters: principles, problems and restorationChapman & HallLondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Lampert, W., Sommer, U. 1997Limnoecology: The Ecology of Lakes and StreamsOxford University PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Lewis, D. M., Elliott, J. A., Lambert, M. F., Reynolds, C. S. 2002The simulation of an Australian reservoir using a phytoplankton community model (PROTECH)Ecological Modelling150107116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ramsbottom, A. E., 1976. Depth charts of the Cumbrian lakes. Freshwater Biological Association.Google Scholar
  10. Reynolds, C. S. 1984The Ecology of Freshwater PhytoplanktonCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Reynolds, C. S. 1997bVegetation Processes in the Pelagic: A Model for Ecosystem TheoryEcology InstituteGermanyGoogle Scholar
  12. Reynolds, C. S., Irish, A. E., Elliott, J. A. 2001The ecological basis for simulating phytoplankton responses to environmental change (PROTECH)Ecological Modelling140271291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Shannon, C. E., Weaver, W. 1949The Mathematical Theory of CommunicationUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaGoogle Scholar
  14. Thackeray, S. J., S. C. Maberly & I. J Winfield, 2005. The Ecology of Bassenthwaite Lake. Freshwater Forum, 25 (in press).Google Scholar
  15. Winder, M., Schindler, D. E. 2004Climatic effects on the phenology of lake processesGlobal Change Biology1018441856CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Elliott
    • 1
  • I. D. Jones
    • 1
  • S. J. Thackeray
    • 1
  1. 1.Algal Modelling Unit, CEH Lancaster, NERCBailrigg, LancsUK

Personalised recommendations