Assessment of the Effects of Light Availability on Growth and Competition Between Strains of Planktothrix agardhii and Microcystis aeruginosa

Camila de Araujo Torres, Miquel Lurling, Marcelo Manzi Marinho

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In this study, we tested the hypothesis that Planktothrix agardhii strains isolated from a tropical water body were better competitors for light than Microcystis aeruginosa strains. These cyanobacteria are common in eutrophic systems, where light is one of the main drivers of phytoplankton, and Planktothrix is considered more shade-adapted and Microcystis more high-light tolerant. First, the effect of light intensities on growth was studied in batch cultures. Next, the minimum requirement of light (I*) and the effect of light limitation on the outcome of competition was investigated in chemostats. All strains showed similar growth at 10 μmol photons m−2 s−1, demonstrating the ability of the two species to grow in low light. The optimum light intensity was lower for P. agardhii, but at the highest light intensity, Microcystis strains reached higher biovolume, confirming that P. agardhii has higher sensitivity to high light. Nonetheless, P. agardhii grew in light intensities considered high (500 μmol photons m−2 s−1) for this species. M. aeruginosa showed a higher carrying capacity in light-limited condition, but I* was similar between all the strains. Under light competition, Microcystis strains displaced P. agardhii and dominated. In two cases, there was competitive exclusion and in the other two P. agardhii managed to remain in the system with a low biovolume (≈15 %). Our findings not only show that strains of P. agardhii can grow under higher light intensities than generally assumed but also that strains of M. aeruginosa are better competitors for light than supposed. These results help to understand the co-occurrence of these species in tropical environments and the dominance of M. aeruginosa even in low-light conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)802-813
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Cyanobacteria
  • Light limitation
  • Interspecific variability
  • Intraspecific variability
  • Continuous culture
  • Chemostats
  • international


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