US Long-Term Ecological Research Network
Factors affecting the timing of surface scums and epilimnetic blooms of blue-green algae in a eutrophic lake
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Blue-green algal blooms, which can occur mixed throughout the epilimnion or as scums at the lake surface, develop in response to a variety of factors. However, it is still unclear what conditions suggest that blooms are imminent or how far in advance blooms can be forecast. I assessed the predictability of surface scums and epilimnetic blooms from limnological, physical, and meteorological variables using data sampled daily during summer and fall 1993 in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin. Daily chlorophyll a (a measure of blue-green algal biomass) was correlated to some weather, physical, and grazing variables at lags ranging from 0 to 9 days. Conditions immediately preceding surface scums were variable, making predictions difficult. However, during surface scums, Secchi disk depth, wind velocity, atmospheric pressure, and precipitation were significantly different than when the scums were absent. Based on predictors examined in this study, I developed criteria that identify the conditions sufficient for scums to form. In Lake Mendota, conditions sufficient for surface scum formation (proper weather and water column conditions and a pre-existing algal population) occur much more often than scums are observed. This study shows the importance of weather in determining both epilimnetic blue-green algal biomass and surface scum formation.