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Doctoral thesis, 2013

Drivers and food web effects of Gonyostomum semen blooms

Johansson, Karin


The flagellate Gonyostomum semen forms dense late-summer blooms in humic lakes and is a nuisance to swimmers because it forms a slimy coat on the skin, causing irritation in sensitive individuals. Increasing occurrence and bloom incidence of G. semen has been reported during recent decades, but it is not clear which factors affect the distribution and bloom formation of this alga. Large cell size, ejection of long, slimy threads (trichocysts), and nighttime migration to the hypolimnion may limit grazing on G. semen by herbivorous zooplankton, resulting in a decreased coupling between phytoplankton and higher trophic levels during blooms. The studies included in this thesis investigate which factors affect G. semen occurrence and bloom formation and how G. semen blooms affect the community composition and trophic interactions in boreal, humic lakes. The occurrence of G. semen has increased between 1995 and 2010, especially in southern Sweden. Bloom incidence and total biomass did not increase continually, but fluctuated among years and peaked in the middle of the study period. Temperature and length of the growing season affected the occurrence and, to a lesser extent, bloom formation of G. semen, but local factors such as pH and water colour were more important for bloom formation. More lakes may become suitable habitats with the ongoing increase in water colour and increasing temperatures may result in a more frequent occurrence and bloom formation of G. semen. Blooms resulted in a shift in zooplankton assemblages toward predominance by small cladocerans, which were not able to feed on G. semen but instead fed more on heterotrophic food resources, supporting the hypothesis of a reduced coupling between phytoplankton and zooplankton. Zooplankton assemblages predominated by small animals feeding on low-quality resources may reduce the food quality for planktivorous fish. Instead, the invertebrate predator C. flavicans appeared to benefit from G. semen blooms, as indicated by its high abundance in bloom-lakes. Calanoid copepods and a large cladoceran fed efficiently on G. semen in the laboratory, indicating that there is, however, some trophic coupling between G. semen and higher trophic levels. This supports the use of biomanipulation of fish communities for controlling G. semen blooms.


algal blooms; Raphidophyceae; trophic interactions; food webs; PUFA; bacteria; heterotrophic protists; zooplankton; benthic invertebrates

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2013, number: 2013:52
ISBN: 978-91-576-7843-0, eISBN: 978-91-576-7843-0
Publisher: Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences