Eutrophication of lakes and reservoirs has contributed to an increase in the magnitude and frequency of harmful cyanobacterial blooms; however, the interactive effects of nutrient availability (eutrophication) and other abiotic and biotic drivers have rarely been comprehensively studied in the field. We undertook an eight-year (2005–2013) research program that assessed the interaction of multiple factors driving cyanobacterial blooms in Vancouver Lake, a large, shallow eutrophic lake in Washington, USA. Our program consisted of nearly continuous monthly or weekly monitoring of water quality and plankton community composition over eight years, as well as multiple zooplankton grazing experiments over three years. We found a relatively consistent seasonal succession of phytoplankton and zooplankton assemblages, and a pattern of interacting factors influencing cyanobacterial bloom dynamics. Typically, a combined effect of decreased dissolved inorganic nitrogen (N), a sudden increase of dissolved inorganic phosphorus (P), and a cascading effect of zooplankton grazing created a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that promoted the rapid proliferation of cyanobacteria over the two to three weeks before a bloom. At the blooms’ peaks, cyanobacterial carbon biomass reached as high as 20 µg L−1
, with total [chl a
] often exceeding 750 µg L−1
. In the weeks following the blooms’ peaks, [PO4
-P] and [NH4
-N] dropped and copepod feeding rates fell to near zero, whereas microzooplankton grazing rates reached their maxima. Microzooplankton grazing impact, combined with low nutrient availability, then drove down cyanobacteria abundance. Vancouver Lake serves as a model for understanding multiple, interacting drivers of cyanobacterial bloom dynamics in shallow, temperate lakes, and is therefore an important system in which to investigate new questions related to the science and management of harmful algal blooms.
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