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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Increased water colour affects freshwater plankton communities in a mesocosm study

Lebret, Karen; Langenheder, Silke; Colinas, Noemi; Ostman, Orjan; Lindstrom, Eva S.


Increases in water colour (brownification) have been observed in aquatic systems in the Northern Hemisphere, partly caused by increased loading of organic carbon from terrestrial origins. We investigated the effect of increase in water colour on the composition, structure and function of lake plankton communities (bacteria, phytoplankton and zooplankton) conducting a mesocosm experiment in 3 medium-coloured lakes (average absorbance at 420 nm: 0.034 cm(-1)), with different nutrient concentrations and phytoplankton community composition. To simulate an increase in water colour, we added humic substances (HuminFeed) at 3 different concentrations. The additions significantly affected the water colour of the mesocosms, but had no measurable effect on total organic carbon concentration, thus change in light conditions was the main effect of our treatment on the plankton communities. The increase in water colour did not significantly affect the measured functions (productivity, respiration) and biomass of the plankton communities (bacteria, phytoplankton and zooplankton), but led to changes in the relative abundance of some phytoplankton taxa and, to a lesser extent, the bacterial community (differences in relative abundance). The treatments had no significant effect on zooplankton biomass or composition. Our study suggests that increases in water colour favour low-light-adapted phytoplankton species, which in turn also can affect bacterial composition, whereas the change in light climate had no clear impact on the functioning of plankton communities in weakly humic lakes.


Light climate; Plankton community; Lake; Bacteria; Phytoplankton

Published in

Aquatic Microbial Ecology
2018, volume: 81, number: 1, pages: 1-17

Authors' information

Lebret, Karen
Uppsala University
Langenheder, Silke
Uppsala University
Colinas, Noemi
Uppsala University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Lindström, Eva S.
Uppsala University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action

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