Unusual massive phytoplankton bloom in the oligotrophic Lake Tanganyika
cover image of Plant Ecology and Evolution 154(3)

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algal bloom
Anabaena flos-aquae
Chroococcus limneticus
Dolichospermum flosaquae
East African Great Lakes
Limnococcus limneticus
secondary upwelling

How to Cite

Cocquyt, C., Plisnier, P.-D., Mulimbwa, N. and Nshombo, M. (2021) “Unusual massive phytoplankton bloom in the oligotrophic Lake Tanganyika”, Plant Ecology and Evolution, 154(3), pp. 351-361. doi: 10.5091/plecevo.2021.1890.


Background and aims – Massive algae growth resulting in a phytoplankton bloom is a very rare event in the meromictic and oligotrophic Lake Tanganyika. Such a bloom was observed in the north of the lake in September 2018. Phytoplankton species composition during this bloom is compared to a documented bloom in 1955, and to the composition in September 2011–2013. Meteorological observations suggest hydrodynamics could explain the occurrence of the 2018 bloom.
Material and methods – Phytoplankton net samples were taken in the pelagic and littoral zone near Uvira during five consecutive days of the bloom in 2018. For the period 2011–2013, quantitative phytoplankton samples were obtained during a weekly sampling at the same sites. Samples were analysed with an inverted microscope and relative abundances of the algal species were compared.
Key resultsDolichospermum flosaquae (Cyanobacteria) initially dominated the bloom followed by high relative abundance of Limnococcus limneticus (Cyanobacteria) on the third sampling day in September 2018. In the pelagic zone an increase of Nitzschia asterionelloides (Bacillariophyta), and Dictyosphaerium and Lobocystis (Chlorophyta) was observed while in the littoral zone increasing abundances of dinophytes were noted. Dolichospermum flosaquae was also responsible for the bloom reported in 1955, but was only sporadically observed in the 2011–2013 samples. Although Limnococcus limneticus was present in 2011–2013, it never reached relative abundances as high as during the 2018 bloom. Meteorological data indicate that 2018 experienced different conditions compared to previous years: strong south-east winds from May to September with a more eastern direction of the wind, and a well-marked drop in atmospheric pressure between August and September.
Conclusion – After a very windy season, the combination of strong hydrodynamics, calmer lake conditions, and high solar radiation and air temperature in September 2018 was favourable for a massive Cyanobacteria bloom in the north of Lake Tanganyika.



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