, Volume 828, Issue 1, pp 165–182 | Cite as

Physical, biogeochemical, and meteorological factors responsible for interannual changes in cyanobacterial community composition and biovolume over two decades in a eutrophic lake

  • Chelsea A. Weirich
  • Dale M. Robertson
  • Todd R. MillerEmail author
Primary Research Paper


This study used a 20-year dataset (1995–2014) to identify factors affecting cyanobacterial community composition (CCC) and abundance in a eutrophic lake. We hypothesized that differences in thermal structure, nutrients, and meteorology drive interannual variability in CCC and abundance. Cluster analysis differentiated dominant cyanobacteria into rare, low abundance, or sporadically occurring taxa. The bloom-forming genera were Microcystis and Aphanizomenon, accounting for ~ 70% of total cyanobacterial biovolume (BV) on average, whereas unusually high abundance of Planktothrix, Synechococcus, and Oscillatoria were clear outliers in three of the years. Variability in CCC was significantly correlated (P < 0.05, R > 0.3) with ice duration, Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), and spring nitrite + nitrate (NO2+3); ice duration and TKN were associated with the occurrence of primarily non-bloom-forming genera. Pairwise correlations tested linear, exponential, and polynomial correlates of absolute and relative total Cyanophyta, Microcystis, or Aphanizomenon BV. TKN, total nitrogen (TN) and phosphorus (TP), TN:TP ratio, Schmidt stability, and rainfall correlated with total Cyanophyta, Microcystis, and Aphanizomenon BV, whereas ice cover, NO2+3, and TKN correlated with relative Microcystis and Aphanizomenon BV. Despite increasing TN:TP ratio over two decades, cyanobacterial abundance had not changed significantly. These data suggest differing responses of cyanobacterial genera to important environmental factors over two decades.


Cyanobacteria Community composition Lake Mendota Harmful algal blooms Climate change 



This work was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, Oceans and Human Health program (R01 ES022075-01). The authors would like to thank USGS and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments that have greatly improved this manuscript. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Joseph J. Zilber School of Public HealthUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Water Science CenterMiddletonUSA

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