Role of Suspended Sediments and Mixing in Reducing Photoinhibition in the Bloom-Forming Cyanobacterium Microcystis


Toxic cyanobacterial blooms are becoming a global problem. Previous research of cyanobacterial bloom development has examined how high nutrient concentrations promote cyanobacteria dominance, and how positive buoyancy provides an ecological advantage over sinking phytoplankton. Tributaries responsible for loading nutrients into lakes often simultaneously contribute high concentrations of suspended sediments. High concentrations of suspended sediments may also influence blooms by affecting the ambient light climate, reducing photodamage, and increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis. We examined the effects of sediments and vertical mixing in potentially reducing photodamage to Microcystis by measuring photosynthetic parameters and pigment content of Microcystis in western Lake Erie during the 2008 bloom and in laboratory experiments. Photosynthetic efficiency increased with increasing sediment concentration in the lake and laboratory experiment. Content of photo-protective carotenoid pigments per dry weight decreased with increasing sediment concentrations, while the light-harvesting pigments, chl a and phycocyanin, increased with sediments. These results indicate that suspended sediments reduce photoinhibition for Microcystis. Further, photosynthetic damage was higher when Microcystis was concentrated on the surface compared to a mixed water column. Measurements of Microcystis abundance and light were also recorded, in addition to photosynthetic measurements. Greatest Microcystis abundances in Lake Erie were recorded during light-limiting conditions, which offer Microcystis both physiological and ecological benefits by reducing photoinhibition and increasing Microcystis’ advantage in light competition via buoyancy. Efforts to reduce cyanobacterial blooms may include reducing suspended sediments loads in combination with reducing nutrient loading.

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J. Chaffin, T. Bridgeman, S. Heckathorn and A. Krause, "Role of Suspended Sediments and Mixing in Reducing Photoinhibition in the Bloom-Forming Cyanobacterium Microcystis," Journal of Water Resource and Protection, Vol. 4 No. 12, 2012, pp. 1029-1041. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2012.412119.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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