Exploring How Cyanobacterial Traits Affect Nutrient Loading Thresholds in Shallow Lakes: A Modelling Approach

M. Chang (Corresponding author), S. Teurlincx, Jan H. Janse, Hans W. Paerl, W.M. Mooij, Annette B.G. Janssen

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


Globally, many shallow lakes have shifted from a clear macrophyte-dominated state to a turbid phytoplankton-dominated state due to eutrophication. Such shifts are often accompanied by toxic cyanobacterial blooms, with specialized traits including buoyancy regulation and nitrogen fixation. Previous work has focused on how these traits contribute to cyanobacterial competitiveness. Yet, little is known on how these traits affect the value of nutrient loading thresholds of shallow lakes. These thresholds are defined as the nutrient loading at which lakes shift water quality state. Here, we used a modelling approach to estimate the effects of traits on nutrient loading thresholds. We incorporated cyanobacterial traits in the process-based ecosystem model PCLake+, known for its ability to determine nutrient loading thresholds. Four scenarios were simulated, including cyanobacteria without traits, with buoyancy regulation, with nitrogen fixation, and with both traits. Nutrient loading thresholds were obtained under N-limited, P-limited, and colimited conditions. Results show that cyanobacterial traits can impede lake restoration actions aimed at removing cyanobacterial blooms via nutrient loading reduction. However, these traits hardly affect the nutrient loading thresholds for clear lakes experiencing eutrophication. Our results provide references for nutrient loading thresholds and draw attention to cyanobacterial traits during the remediation of eutrophic water bodies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2467
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Plan_S-Compliant_OA
  • national
  • harmful algal blooms
  • regime shift
  • alternative stable state
  • resilience
  • hysteresis
  • light limitation
  • nutrient limitation
  • critical nutrient loading


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