In two consecutive years, we measured lake-wide spatial patterning of cyanobacteria using the FLAMe platform (Crawford et al. 2015). To evaluate early warning indicators of a critical transition, in the first year we induced a cyanobacteria bloom through nutrient addition in an experimental lake while using a nearby unmanipulated lake as a reference ecosystem (Pace et al. 2017). During the second year, both lakes were left unmanipulated. Proposed detection methods for early warning indicators were compared between the manipulated and reference lakes to test for their ability to accurately detect statistical signals before the cyanobacteria bloom developed.
Peter and Paul Lakes are small, oligotrophic lakes (Peter: 2.5 ha, 6 m, 19.6 m and Paul: 1.7 ha, 3.9 m, 15 m, for surface area, mean, and max depth respectively) located in the Northern Highlands Lake District in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA (89°32’ W, 46°13’ N). These lakes have similar physical and chemical properties and are connected via a culvert with Paul Lake being upstream. Both lakes stratify soon after ice-off and remain stratified usually into November (for extensive lake descriptions, see Carpenter and Kitchell, 1993).
In the first year, Peter Lake was fertilized daily starting on 1 June 2015 (DOY 152) with a nutrient addition of 20 mg N m-2 d-1 and 3 mg P m-2 d-1 (molar N:P of 15:1) through the addition of H3PO4 and NH4NO3 until 29 June (day of year, DOY 180). The decision to stop nutrient additions required meeting four predefined criteria based on temporal changes in phycocyanin and chlorophyll concentrations indicative of early warning behavior of a critical transition to a persistent cyanobacteria bloom state. (Pace et al. 2017). Nutrients uniformly mix within 1-2 days after fertilization based on prior studies (Cole and Pace 1998). No nutrient additions were made to Paul Lake. In the second year (2016), neither lake received nutrient additions.
We mapped the surface water characteristics of both experimental lakes to identify changes in the spatial dynamics of cyanobacteria. In 2015, mapping occurred weekly from 4 June to 15 August (11 sample weeks). In 2016, when neither lake was fertilized, the lakes were mapped three times in early to mid-summer. In both years, mapping occurred between the hours of 07:00 to 12:00 (before the daily nutrient addition). We rotated the order that we sampled the lakes to avoid potential biases due to differences in time of day. Each individual lake sampling event was completed in approximately one hour.
The FLAMe platform maps the spatial pattern of water characteristics. A boat-mounted sampling system continuously pumps surface water from the lake to a series of sensors while geo-referencing each measurement (complete description of the FLAMe platform in Crawford et al. 2015). For this study, the FLAMe was mounted on a small flat-bottomed boat propelled by an electric motor and was outfitted with a YSI EXO2™ multi-parameter sonde (YSI, Yellow Springs, OH, USA). We focused for this study on measures of phycocyanin (a pigment unique to cyanobacteria) and temperature. Phycocyanin florescence was measured using the optical EXO™ Total Algae PC Smart Sensor. The Total Algae PC Smart Sensor was calibrated with a rhodamine solution based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. Phycocyanin concentrations are reported as ug/L; however, these concentrations should be considered as relative because we did not calibrate the sensor to actual phycocyanin nor blue-green algae concentrations. Geographic positions were measured using a Garmin echoMAP™ 50s. Sensor- data were collected continuously at 1 Hz and linked via timestamp to create spatially explicit data for each lake. Each sampling produced approximately 3500 measurements in the manipulated lake and 2000 in the reference lake. The measurements were distributed by following a gridded pattern across the entire lake surface to characterize spatial patterns over the extent of the lake.