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Experimental culling of minnows suppresses cyanobacterial bloom under low-nutrient conditions

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minnows, trophic cascades, algal blooms, nutrient cycles, fisheries management, phytoplanktons, cyanobacterial blooms

Abstract (summary)

Cyanobacterial blooms in lakes of low nutrient status are recent ecological surprises. Culling of planktivorous fish may help suppress phytoplankton blooms via a trophic cascade effect. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a 90-day experiment adjacent to a shallow oligomesotrophic lake increasingly beset by midsummer cyanobacterial blooms in the presence of high abundances of minnows and sparse herbivorous zooplankton. The single-factor (± three spottail shiners, Notropis hudsonius) experimental design was replicated 10 times for a total of twenty 1200 L capacity mesocosms. Contrary to the trophic cascade hypothesis, minnow removal decreased the abundance of bosminids capable of grazing cyanobacteria. Nevertheless, removal of the minnows significantly both suppressed phytoplankton biomass and offset the development of cyanobacteria, such as Gloeotrichia echinulata. Lower concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen in the fishless relative to stocked mesocosms best explained these differences in the phytoplankton community. Our findings highlight how fisheries management practices that enhance minnow populations in lakes of low productivity may inadvertently contribute to cyanobacterial blooms through increased nutrient cycling.

Publication Information

Graham, M., Cook, J., Johnsen, M.A., Christensen-Dalsgaard, K.K., Vinebrooke, R.D. (2019). Experimental culling of minnows suppresses cyanobacterial bloom under low-nutrient conditions. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, e-First article.


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