The pathway to noxious cyanobacteria blooms in lakes: The food web as the final turn

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1. Cyanobacteria blooms have long been the focus of limnological research as they often represent the 'end member' of limnological deterioration under various human impacts. Research over the past several decades has greatly illuminated the ecological factors promoting cyanobacteria blooms but controversy and confusion surround the successful integration of this diverse body of work. 2. In this opinion article I attempt to integrate well-known aspects of cyanobacteria bloom ecology (such as the roles of nutrient loading, N:P ratio, and mixing conditions) with more recent developments that highlight the importance of feedbacks within the food web in regulating cyanobacteria blooms. Food-web feedbacks involving stoichiometric mechanisms appear to be particularly important, as accumulating data indicate that the food web influences cyanobacteria not just by regulating the rate of grazing mortality. Rather, trophic interactions may also regulate cyanobacteria dynamics by altering the consumer-driven nutrient recycling regime in a way that shifts the competitive advantage away from cyanobacteria. 3. Viewed in this way, cyanobacteria blooms can be seen as probabilistic events that are the end result of a series of key mechanisms involving nutrient loading, physical mixing conditions, and trophic interactions. To successfully manage lake water quality we should take advantage of each node of contingency leading to undesirable blooms. In doing so we will also have a more coherent scientific message to communicate with those directly involved with the socioeconomic politics of water quality decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-543
Number of pages7
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1999


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