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Cyanobacteria blooms: effects on aquatic ecosystems.

  • Havens, Karl E
Published Article
Advances in experimental medicine and biology
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2008
DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-75865-7_33
PMID: 18461790


Cyanobacteria become increasingly dominant as concentrations of TP and TN increase during eutrophication of lakes, rivers and estuaries. Temporal dynamics of cyanobacteria blooms are variable--in some systems persistent blooms occur in summer to fall, whereas in other systems blooms are more sporadic. Cyanobacteria blooms have a wide range of possible biological impacts including potential toxic effects on other algae, invertebrates and fish, impacts to plants and benthic algae due to shading, and impacts to food web function as large inedible algae produce a bottleneck to C and energy flow in the plankton food web. In lakes with dense blooms of cyanobacteria, accumulation of organic material in lake sediments and increased bacterial activity also may lead to anoxic conditions that alter the structure of benthic macro-invertebrates. Diffusive internal P loading may increase, and hypolimnetic anoxia may lead to a loss of piscivorous fish that require a summer cold water refuge in temperate lakes. Ecosystem changes associated with frequent blooms may result in delayed response of lakes, rivers and estuaries to external nutrient load reduction. Despite numerous case studies and a vast literature on species-specific responses, community level effects of cyanobacterial blooms are not well understood--in particular the realized impacts of toxins and changes in food web structure/function. These areas require additional research given the prevalence of toxic blooms in the nation's lakes, rivers and coastal waters--systems that provide a wide range of valued ecosystem services.


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