Published Research

Water Quality

Cyanobacterial blooms in the central basin of Lake Erie: potentials for cyanotoxins and environmental drivers

Chaffin, J.D., S. Mishra, D.D. Kane, D.L. Bade, K. Stanislawczyk, K.N. Slodysko, K.W. Jones, E.M. Parker, and E.L. Fox

Published In 2019

Journal of Great Lakes Research 45(2):277–289

Lake Erie western basin (WB) cyanobacterial blooms are a yearly summer occurrence; however, blooms have also been reported in the offshore waters of the central basin (CB), and very little is known about what drives these blooms or their potential for cyanobacterial toxins. Cyanobacteria Index was quantified using MODIS and MERIS data for the CB between 2003 and 2017, and water samples were collected between 2013 and 2017. The goals were to 1) quantify cyanobacteria, 2) determine environmental drivers of CB blooms, and 3) determine the potential for cyanobacterial toxins in the CB. Dolichospermum (Anabaena) occurred in the CB during July before the onset of the WB bloom, and then in August and September, the cyanobacteria community shifted towards Microcystis. The largest Dolichospermum blooms (2003, 2012, 2013, and 2015) were associated with reduced water clarity (Secchi disk depth < 4 m), whereas large CB Microcystis blooms (2011 and 2015) were associated with large WB blooms. Dolichospermum blooms occurred in high nitrate concentrations (>20 μmol/L) and high nitrogen-to‑phosphorus ratios (>100), which indicate nutrient concentrations or ratios did not select for Dolichospermum. Additionally, the sxtA gene, but not mcyE or microcystins, were detected in the CB during July 2016 and 2017. The mcyE gene and microcystins were detected in the CB during August 2016 and 2017. The results indicate the CB’s potential for cyanotoxins shifts from saxitoxins to microcystins throughout the summer. Continued monitoring of cyanobacteria and multiple cyanobacterial toxins is recommended to ensure safe drinking water for CB coastal communities.