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The common bloom-forming cyanobacterium Microcystis is prone to a wide array of microbial antagonists

Van Wichelen, Jeroen, Vanormelingen, Pieter, Codd, Geoffrey A., Vyverman, Wim
Harmful algae 2016 v.55 pp. 97-111
Microcystis, antagonists, aquatic food webs, bacteria, biomass, coevolution, fungi, humans, microalgae, population dynamics, predation, protists, surface water, toxicity, viruses, zooplankton
Many degraded waterbodies around the world are subject to strong proliferations of cyanobacteria – notorious for their toxicity, high biomass build-up and negative impacts on aquatic food webs – the presence of which puts serious limits on the human use of affected water bodies. Cyanobacterial blooms are largely regarded as trophic dead ends since they are a relatively poor food source for zooplankton. As a consequence, their population dynamics are generally attributed to changes in abiotic conditions (bottom-up control). Blooms however generally contain a vast and diverse community of micro-organisms of which some have shown devastating effects on cyanobacterial biomass. For Microcystis, one of the most common bloom-forming cyanobacteria worldwide, a high number of micro-organisms (about 120 taxa) including viruses, bacteria, microfungi, different groups of heterotrophic protists, other cyanobacteria and several eukaryotic microalgal groups are currently known to negatively affect its growth by infection and predation or by the production of allelopathic compounds. Although many of these specifically target Microcystis, sharp declines of Microcystis biomass in nature are only rarely assigned to these antagonistic microbiota. The commonly found strain specificity of their interactions may largely preclude strong antagonistic effects on Microcystis population levels but may however induce compositional shifts that can change ecological properties such as bloom toxicity. These highly specific interactions may form the basis of a continuous arms race (co-evolution) between Microcystis and its antagonists which potentially limits the possibilities for (micro)biological bloom control.