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Evaluating Nutrient Reduction, Grazing and Barley Straw as Measures Against Algal Growth

Abstract

The aim of our study was to experimentally investigate whether it is possible to reduce nuisance growth of filamentous algae in freshwater ecosystems. We used an experimental set-up mimicking a shallow pond system and performed a field investigation in the eutrophic moat of Krapperup castle (Southern Sweden), which exemplifies an extremely impaired ecosystem with ample growth of filamentous green algae. The indoor experiment tested three treatments: I) reduced nutrient concentrations, II) invertebrate grazers and III) addition of barley straw, which may constitute measures against filamentous algal growth and thereby improve the quality of the ecosystem services provided by water bodies. Our results show a decrease in cyanobacteria and diatom abundances in all mesocosms as filamentous algae biomass increased, suggesting that the microalgae suffered from nutrient and light competition with filamentous algae. A tendency for lower filamentous algae final biomass, as well as coverage, was observed in the treatment where the concentration of nutrients was reduced. Grazers treatment showed a tendency to inhibit filamentous algae growth on artificial macrophytes towards the end of the experiment, suggesting that snails initially fed on their preferred food source (diatoms), until it was almost depleted and then started to feed on filamentous algae. Interestingly, the barley straw treatment was the only treatment promoting macrophytes growth and enhancing diatom biomass, but this did not affect filamentous algae biomass. However, the ratio between filamentous algae and macrophyte final biomasses was significantly lower in the straw treatment. In a broader context, it is likely that in a long-term perspective the positive effect of barley straw on macrophyte growth will promote a shift from dominance by filamentous algae to macrophytes as main primary producer. Moreover, our experiment shows that barley straw may be effective in reducing cyanobacterial growth, which may lead to improved water quality and thereby ecosystem services, such as supporting and cultural ecosystem services, since cyanobacteria may produce potent toxins and pose a serious risk to human and animal health. Altogether, our experimental results have important implications for the challenge of reversing nuisance filamentous algal blooms in highly eutrophic systems.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by The Royal Physiographic Society and the Sweden Water Research. The greenhouse and laboratories were made available by Department of Biology, Lund University.

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VF, together with PUC and LAH conceived, planned, carried out the experiment, performed the samplings and wrote the manuscript. PUC performed the samplings in the study area in September 2016. EP performed the statistical data analysis. KMP and FB supervised the project. LAH was involved in planning, provided critical feedback, helped shape the research and was the main supervisor of the work. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final manuscript.

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Fervier, V., Urrutia-Cordero, P., Piano, E. et al. Evaluating Nutrient Reduction, Grazing and Barley Straw as Measures Against Algal Growth. Wetlands 40, 193–202 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-019-01167-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-019-01167-6

Keywords

  • Filamentous algae
  • Eutrophication
  • Freshwater
  • Ponds
  • Mesocosms
  • Restoration
  • Cyanobacteria