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The regulation of blue-green algae by iron availability and calcite precipitation Murphy, Thomas P.D.


The primary objective of this research was to determine if changes in iron availability influence the periodicity of blue-green algal growth. A secondary goal was to resolve how iron availability was related to events such as calcite (calcium carbonate) precipitation and sediment nutrient release. The biogeochemical regulation of blue-green algal succession was studied in three eutrophic hardwater lakes located upon the Thompson Plateau in south-central British Columbia. The experimental approaches included iri situ bottle and limnocorral experiments, sediment core analysis, monitoring of seasonal changes in water chemistry, and whole-lake manipulation by hypolimnetic aeration, or calcium hydroxide addition. Growth and primary production bioassays were used to evaluate iron availability. Microbial chelators were isolated from algal cultures and lake water, quantified by a chelation assay, and used to determine their in situ effects on algal productivity and bacterial heterotrophy. Microbes were able to regulate the bioavailability of iron. Algal siderophore isolates were rapidly assimilated in lake water and they were highly specific for iron chelation. Moreover, chelator concentrations in Black Lake usually exceeded the dissolved iron concentration. Algae excreted chelators that could suppress growth of some other species of algae by 90%, enhance the primary production of some other algal species by 30%, or suppress the heterotrophic activity of bacteria by 14-98%. The degree of iron limitation varied greatly during the summer. In Black Lake, iron limitation was more than ten-fold more intense in early summer than in late summer. Dense blooms of blue-green algae occurred in Black Lake only after the iron content of the lake increased from 20 to more than 100 ug/L. An increase in iron concentration in the water column of the three lakes was caused by a midsummer sediment release of iron. Although sediment pyrite formation converted available iron into refractory iron in both Chain and Frisken lakes, the degree of iron limitation varied greatly among the lakes. Unlike in Black Lake, the algae in Chain Lake were not limited by iron availability. Phosphorus solubility was a good index of iron availability. Black and Frisken lakes had too little iron for iron phosphate to precipitate, but the higher iron concentration in Chain Lake regulated phosphorus solubility. The differences among lakes was primarily a function of external iron loading, not sediment iron release. Chain Lake received 10³ more iron per m² than Frisken or Black lakes. Carbonate equilibria integrated the microbial responses to iron enrichment. When iron availability was increased in the epilimnion of Black Lake, algal productivity was enhanced which resulted in an increase in pH and the coprecipitation of more calcite and phosphorus than in control treatments. The precipitation of calcite could sediment as much as 90% of the algae and 97% of the phosphorus from the epilimnion. The hypolimnia of the iron-enriched limnocorrals had the lowest pH and highest dissolution of precipitated phosphorus. Three reactions, iron chelation, sediment iron release, and calcite precipitation, can regulate much of the periodicity of blue-green algal growth in hardwater lakes.

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