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Physical drivers facilitating a toxigenic cyanobacterial bloom in a major Great Lakes tributary...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Limnology and Oceanography
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 17

The Maumee River is the primary source for nutrients fueling seasonal Microcystis ‐dominated blooms in western Lake Erie's open waters though such blooms in the river are infrequent. The river also serves as source water for multiple public water systems and a large food services facility in northwest Ohio. On 20 September 2017, an unprecedented bloom was reported in the Maumee River estuary within the Toledo metropolitan area, which triggered a recreational water advisory. Here we (1) explore physical drivers likely contributing to the bloom's occurrence, and (2) describe the toxin concentration and bacterioplankton taxonomic composition. A historical analysis using 10‐years of seasonal river discharge, water level, and local wind data identified two instances when high‐retention conditions occurred over ≥ 10 d in the Maumee River estuary: in 2016 and during the 2017 bloom. Observation by remote sensing imagery supported the advection of cyanobacterial cells into the estuary from the lake during 2017 and the lack of an estuary bloom in 2016 due to a weak cyanobacterial bloom in the lake. A rapid‐response survey during the 2017 bloom determined levels of the cyanotoxins, specifically microcystins, in excess of recreational contact limits at sites within the lower 20 km of the river while amplicon sequencing found these sites were dominated by Microcystis . These results highlight the need to broaden our understanding of physical drivers of cyanobacterial blooms within the interface between riverine and lacustrine systems, particularly as such blooms are expected to become more prominent in response to a changing climate.