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Predicting the risk of proliferation of the benthic cyanobacterium Lyngbya wollei in the St. Lawrence River

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Lyngbya wollei is a toxin-producing cyanobacterium, forming mats of filaments that proliferate in rivers, lakes, and springs in North America. We determined its distribution over a 250 km stretch of the St. Lawrence River (SLR; Quebec, Canada) to elaborate predictive models of its presence and biomass based on chemical and physical characteristics. A 2008 survey revealed L. wollei was generally found downstream of the inflow of small tributaries draining farmlands. As enriched waters flowed slowly through dense submerged vegetation, dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) concentration dropped but dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and total dissolved phosphorus (TDP) remained high, leading to a low DIN:TDP ratio. Models identified DOC (positive effect), TP (negative effect), and DIN:TDP (negative effect) as the most important variables explaining L. wollei distribution. The risk of L. wollei occurrence in the SLR was correctly forecasted in 72%–92% of all cases with an independent data set. Proliferation of L. wollei, a potentially heterotrophic, diazotrophic cyanobacterium, is favoured by organic enrichment and imbalance of DIN:TDP ratio. Its dominance coincided with low macrophyte biomass, yielding a simplified, less productive ecosystem.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en limnologie et en environnement aquatique (GRIL) et Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, Succursale Centre Ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada. 2: Water Science and Technology Branch, Environment Canada, 105 McGill Street, Montréal, QC H2Y 2E7, Canada.

Publication date: October 5, 2012

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  • 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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