Competition, Cyanobacteria, Harmful algal blooms, Nutrient cycling
Blooms of the toxin-producing cyanobacterium Microcystis are increasing globally, leading to the loss of ecosystem services, threats to human health, as well as the deaths of pets and husbandry animals. While nutrient availability is a well-known driver of algal biomass, the factors controlling “who” is present in fresh waters are more complicated. Microcystis possesses multiple strategies to adapt to temperature, light, changes in nutrient chemistry, herbivory, and parasitism that provide a selective advantage over its competitors. Moreover, its ability to alter ecosystem pH provides it a further advantage that helps exclude many of its planktonic competitors. While decades of nutrient monitoring have provided us with the tools to predict the accumulation of phytoplankton biomass, here, we point to factors on the horizon that may inform us why Microcystis is presently the dominant bloom former in freshwaters around the world.
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Wilhelm, Steven W.; Bullerjahn, George S.; and McKay, R. Michael L.. (2020). The complicated and confusing ecology of microcystis blooms. mBio, 11 (3), 1-5.