Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 77, Issue 4, pp 681–694 | Cite as

Anthropogenic land use is associated with N-fixing cyanobacterial dominance in lakes across the continental United States

  • Jonathan P. DoubekEmail author
  • Cayelan C. Carey
  • Bradley J. Cardinale
Research Article


Cyanobacteria cause many water quality problems in lakes worldwide. Although many studies have examined factors that influence the structure of cyanobacterial communities, few have explicitly compared the effects of within-lake conditions (e.g., nutrient concentrations) and watershed parameters (e.g., land use) on a diverse array of cyanobacterial taxa. Here, we analyzed data from the 2007 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Lakes Assessment to quantify how lakeshore anthropogenic land use, nutrient concentrations and ratios, and surface water temperatures predict cyanobacterial biovolume and dominance in 236 naturally-formed lakes spanning the continental U.S. We observed that anthropogenic lakeshore land use was the best predictor for cyanobacterial dominance, whereas in-lake nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations were the best predictors for cyanobacterial biovolume. Our analyses suggest that anthropogenic land use may influence cyanobacterial dominance via means other than increased nutrient concentrations. The sum of agricultural and human-developed lakeshore land use was the best predictor of N-fixing cyanobacterial dominance, but there was no significant relationship between anthropogenic land use and non-N-fixing cyanobacterial dominance. In addition, we observed a total N:P ratio threshold for cyanobacterial dominance in the phytoplankton community (150:1) that was much higher than previously reported ratios. Consequently, management strategies to control cyanobacteria need to account for eco-physiological variation among different cyanobacterial taxa, and should consider nutrients and the other effects of land use to control overall lake cyanobacterial biovolume and cyanobacterial dominance, as the two cyanobacterial metrics may be sensitive to different drivers.


Cyanobacterial bloom Eutrophication Freshwater lakes Management Phytoplankton 



We thank the EPA for making their NLA dataset publicly available. This manuscript benefitted from helpful comments by A.B. Gerling. This study was supported by the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Sciences and U.S. National Science Foundation grants DEB-1157992 and DEB-1046121.

Supplementary material

27_2015_411_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (179 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 179 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan P. Doubek
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cayelan C. Carey
    • 1
  • Bradley J. Cardinale
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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