- How rising CO2 and global warming may stimulate harmful cyanobacterial blooms
- Harmful Algae
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Climate change is likely to stimulate the development of harmful cyanobacterial blooms in eutrophic waters, with negative consequences for water quality of many lakes, reservoirs and brackish ecosystems across the globe. In addition to effects of temperature and eutrophication, recent research has shed new light on the possible implications of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Depletion of dissolved CO2 by dense cyanobacterial blooms creates a concentration gradient across the air-water interface. A steeper gradient at elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations will lead to a greater influx of CO2, which can be intercepted by surface-dwelling blooms, thus intensifying cyanobacterial blooms in eutrophic waters. Bloom-forming cyanobacteria display an unexpected diversity in CO2 responses, because different strains combine their uptake systems for CO2 and bicarbonate in different ways. The genetic composition of cyanobacterial blooms may therefore shift. In particular, strains with high-flux carbon uptake systems may benefit from the anticipated rise in inorganic carbon availability. Increasing temperatures also stimulate cyanobacterial growth. Many bloom-forming cyanobacteria and also green algae have temperature optima above 25 °C, often exceeding the temperature optima of diatoms and dinoflagellates. Analysis of published data suggests that the temperature dependence of the growth rate of cyanobacteria exceeds that of green algae. Indirect effects of elevated temperature, like an earlier onset and longer duration of thermal stratification, may also shift the competitive balance in favor of buoyant cyanobacteria while eukaryotic algae are impaired by higher sedimentation losses. Furthermore, cyanobacteria differ from eukaryotic algae in that they can fix dinitrogen, and new insights show that the nitrogen-fixation activity of heterocystous cyanobacteria can be strongly stimulated at elevated temperatures. Models and lake studies indicate that the response of cyanobacterial growth to rising CO2 concentrations and elevated temperatures can be suppressed by nutrient limitation. The greatest response of cyanobacterial blooms to climate change is therefore expected to occur in eutrophic and hypertrophic lakes.
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