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Winds and the distribution of nearshore phytoplankton in a stratified lake

Hélène Cyr
Water research 2017 v.122 pp. 114-127
Bacillariophyceae, Chlorophyta, Cyanobacteria, Miozoa, algae, biomass, community structure, lakes, phytoplankton, spring, summer, watersheds, wind speed
The distribution of phytoplankton in lakes is notoriously patchy and dynamic, but wind-driven currents and algal buoyancy/motility are thought to determine where algae accumulate. In this study, nearshore phytoplankton were sampled from different parts of a lake basin twice a day for 4–5 consecutive days, in the spring and in late summer, to test whether short-term changes in phytoplankton biomass and community composition can be predicted from wind-driven currents. On windy days, phytoplankton biomass was higher at downwind than at upwind nearshore sites, and the magnitude of this difference increased linearly with increasing wind speed. However, contrary to the generally assumed downwind phytoplankton aggregations, these differences were mostly due to upwelling activity and the dilution of phytoplankton at upwind nearshore sites. The distribution of individual taxa was also related to wind speed, but only during late stratification (except for cryptophytes), and these relationships were consistent with the buoyancy and motility of each group. On windy days, large diatoms and cyanobacteria concentrated upwind, neutrally buoyant taxa (green algae, small diatoms) were homogeneously distributed, and motile taxa (cryptophytes, chrysophytes, dinoflagellates) concentrated downwind. Predictable differences in the biomass and composition of phytoplankton communities could affect the efficiency of trophic transfers in nearshore areas.