The seasonality of phytoplankton in African lakes

  • J. F. Talling
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 33)


Although some study of the subject began in 1899, wide-ranging information from African water-bodies has only become available since 1950. Important developments included the establishment of long-term centres of research, the adoption of improved methods for quantitative algal sampling, the more intensive study of environmental conditions, the beginnings of experimental testing, and the improvement of taxonomic knowledge.

At higher latitudes (>20°) examples of pronounced algal seasonality are long-established; they are accompanied and influenced by marked changes in radiant energy income and so water temperature, and often by effects of seasonal water input. Illustrations are given from lakes in Morocco and South Africa.

More generally in Africa, including the tropical belt, annual patterns of phytoplankton seasonality are usually either dominated by hydrological features (water input-output) or by hydrographic ones (water-column structure and circulation). Examples of both types are discussed, together with instances (e.g. L. Volta) of combined hydrological and hydrographic regulation. In both the seasonal abundance of diatoms is often distinct and complementary to that of blue-green algae, with differing relationships to vertical mixing and water retention.

Horizontal variability in the seasonal cycle is especially pronounced in the larger or morphometrically subdivided lakes. Some inshore-offshore differentiation is also known to affect phytoplankton quantity (e.g. L. George) and species composition (e.g. L. Victoria). Longitudinal differentiation is common in elongate basins especially when with a massive or seasonal inflow at one end (e.g. L. Turkana, L. Nubia, L. Volta); occasional terminal upwelling can also be influential (e.g. southern L. Tanganyika). Such examples grade into the longitudinally differentiated seasonality of flowing river-reservoir systems, as studied on the Blue and White Niles.

The annual amplitude of population density, expressed in orders of magnitude (=log10 units), is one measure of seasonal variability. It can exceed 3 orders both in systems subject to hydrological wash-out (e.g. Nile reservoirs) and in the more variable species components of lakes of long retention (e.g. L. Victoria). Low amplitudes can be characteristic of some components (e.g. green algae in L. Victoria) or of total algal biomass (e.g. L. George, L. Sibaya).

Seasonal changes may be subordinated to inter-annual ones, especially in shallow and hydrologically unstable lakes (e.g. L. Nakuru).


seasonality population dynamics phytoplankton African lakes 


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© Dr W. Junk Publishers, Dordrecht 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. F. Talling
    • 1
  1. 1.Freshwater Biological AssociationThe Ferry HouseAmbleside, CumbriaUK

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