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Predicting Cyanobacteria dominance in lakes

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A controversial precept of aquatic ecology asserts that low ratios of nitrogen to phosphorus (N:P) lead to noxious and sometimes toxic blooms of Cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria dominance is a major risk to human and ecosystem health. The stoichiometric control of Cyanobacteria therefore has become central to freshwater resource management. This controversial concept is based on observed Cyanobacteria dominance in lakes with low N:P and the results of lab and field experiments. Here we analyze data from 99 of the temperate zone's most studied lakes and show that this model is flawed. We show that the risk of water quality degradation by Cyanobacteria blooms is more strongly correlated with variation in total P, total N, or standing algae biomass than the ratio of N:P. Risks associated with Cyanobacteria are therefore less associated with N:P ratios than a simple increase in nutrient concentrations and algal biomass.

Un précepte controversé de l'écologie aquatique veut que des faibles rapports azote:phosphore (N:P) entraînent la formation de fleurs d'eau à cyanobactéries, nocives et parfois toxiques. Une dominance des cyanobactéries constitue, en effet, un risque important pour la santé humaine et celle des écosystèmes. Le contrôle stoïchiométrique des cyano bactéries est ainsi devenu une des préoccupations principales de la gestion des ressources d'eau douce. Ce concept controversé se base sur l'observation de la dominance des cyanobactéries dans les lacs à faible rapport N:P et sur les résultats d'expériences en laboratoire et en nature. Nous analysons ici des données provenant de 99 des lacs tempérés les mieux étudiés et démontrons que le modèle est incorrect. Le risque d'une dégradation des eaux par les fleurs d'eau à cyanobactéries est en corrélation plus forte avec les variations du P total, du N total ou de la biomasse des algues qu'avec le rapport N:P. Les risques reliés aux cyanobactéries sont donc moins associés aux rapports N:P qu'à la simple augmentation des concentrations d'éléments nutritifs et de la biomasse des algues.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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