Experimental Iron Amendment Suppresses Toxic Cyanobacteria in a Hypereutrophic Lake

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Orihel, Diane
Schindler, David
Ballard, Nathaniel
Wilson, Lindsey
Vinebrooke, Rolf
Cyanobacteria , Eutrophication , Freshwater , Harmful algal blooms (HABs) , Internal 36 phosphorus loading , Iron treatment , Lake remediation , Microcystin , Sediments
The effects of reducing nutrient inputs to lakes and reservoirs are often delayed by hysteresis resulting from internal phosphorus (P) loading from sediments. Consequently, controlling harmful algal blooms (HABs) in many eutrophic ecosystems requires additional management to improve water quality. We manipulated iron (Fe) concentrations in a hypereutrophic lake to determine if Fe amendment would suppress HABs by inhibiting P release from sediments. Our experiment consisted of 15 in situ mesocosms, 12 of which each received a different dose of Fe (ranging from 2 to 225 g/m2); the remaining three were unmanipulated to serve as controls. Iron amendment decreased P accumulation in porewaters and the flux of P from sediments, which significantly lowered P concentrations in the water column. Iron exerted significant dose-dependent negative effects on the biomass of phytoplankton and periphyton, and reduced the dominance of cyanobacteria. Even at the lowest doses, Fe appeared to reduce the toxicity of cyanobacterial blooms, as measured by concentrations of hepatotoxic microcystins. Overall, our findings highlight the potential for Fe treatment as an effective strategy for minimizing HABs in eutrophic lakes and reservoirs. More broadly, our study reinforces the importance of Fe in regulating the trophic state of freshwaters, and the sensitivity of certain ecosystems to changes in Fe supply. Finally, we hypothesize that decreases in natural Fe supplies to lakes associated with anthropogenic activities may worsen outbreaks of toxic cyanobacteria.