Effects of recent climate change on phytoplankton phenology in a temperate lake


S. Meis, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Edinburgh, Bush Estate, Penicuik EH26 0QB, U.K. E-mail: sebisa@ceh.ac.uk


1. A number of long-term studies have shown that spring biological events have advanced in recent decades and that this is a response to climate change. In lentic systems, changes in phytoplankton phenology have been attributed to various directly climate-related processes including changes in the onset and duration of thermal stratification, earlier ice-break up and increased water temperature. Both indirect climatic drivers and non-climate drivers such as elevated grazing pressure and nutrient enrichment can also affect phenology.

2. This study investigated whether phenological trends in phytoplankton could be detected in a relatively short time series in a shallow, ice-free, polymictic lake with a high annual discharge and whether any such trends could be causally explained.

3. It was found that the centre of gravity of the spring chlorophyll a bloom advanced significantly by 1.6 days per year over a 15-year period. This was accompanied by a significant increase in water temperature of 0.12 °C per year which is high compared to published rates of change over longer time series. No direct effects of ice cover, stratification or water discharge rates could be linked to the advancement of the spring bloom. Instead, the shift in timing was attributed to an advance in the timing of the dominant spring diatom, Aulacoseira spp., instigated by a temperature-driven increase in replication rate leading to an earlier onset of silica (SiO2) limitation.