Modeling plankton dynamics during a Prymnesium parvum bloom: The importance of inflows and allelopathic relationships on bloom dynamics
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Harmful algal blooms' global amplification has driven research on growth characteristics and instigating mechanisms. These blooms prosper under diverse environmental conditions, creating challenges identifying bloom initiation. The haptophyte, Prymnesium parvum, plagues the southwestern United States with massive system disruptions and huge fish kills caused by its toxin. Despite many abiotic factors' association with P. parvum blooms, low nutrient levels stress the alga increasing toxin production, eliminating nutrient competition, and alleviating grazing pressures. This model examines the relationship between nutrient availability and P. parvum toxin production against another phytoplankton and a single grazing zooplankton, using a Monod function relating population growth rate with limiting nutrient concentrations. Sensitivity analyses emphasize plankton biological parameters most influential in accumulating biomass. The impact of toxin production on zooplankton grazing rates underscores P. parvum's need for top-down control suppression. The toxin production equation increases production when P. parvum experiences low specific growth rates from nutrient availability and low biomass. This equation is analyzed against previously published allelopathic relationships, comparing plankton reactions and bloom endurance. The model's toxin production equation proves more ecologically feasible, incorporating competing phytoplankton species' mortality and variables easily verified through laboratory experiments. Though not intended for management strategy development, the model explores and supports the proposed strategy of incorporating hydraulic flushing, pulsed and continuous inflows, to eliminate biomass accumulation. Inflows relieve stressful nutrient-limiting conditions, introducing resources affecting bloom stability and plankton community dynamics. The faster-growing competing phytoplankton gains survival advantages when inflow rates fall lower than its maximum specific growth rate, but greater than P. Parvum's, emphasizing the accurate measuring of competitors' maximum specific growth rates and identifying a dilution rate range where P. parvum loses at nutrient intake. Inflows with various nutrient levels representing different source waters from freshwater lakes were tested for impacts on plankton dynamics. Adding any hydrological effect reduced P. parvum biomass. Disruptions create disturbance, removing P. parvum's system-dominating position, allowing the phytoplankton to exceed P. parvum's density. The model highlights the importance of P. parvum's toxin's presence to maintain dominance and emphasizes flushing agitation as potential and feasible management schemes to deter bloom continuation and increase species diversity.
Hewitt, Natalie Case (2011). Modeling plankton dynamics during a Prymnesium parvum bloom: The importance of inflows and allelopathic relationships on bloom dynamics. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from