Controlling blooms of Planktothrix rubescens by optimized metalimnetic water withdrawal: a modelling study on adaptive reservoir operation

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Mi, Chenxi
Hamilton, David P
Frassl, Marieke A
Shatwell, Tom
Kong, Xiangzhen
Boehrer, Bertram
Li, Yiping
Donner, Jan
Rinke, Karsten
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Background Aggregations of cyanobacteria in lakes and reservoirs are commonly associated with surface blooms, but may also occur in the metalimnion as subsurface or deep chlorophyll maxima. Metalimnetic cyanobacteria blooms are of great concern when potentially toxic species, such as Planktothrix rubescens, are involved. Metalimnetic blooms of P. rubescens have apparently increased in frequency and severity in recent years, so there is a strong need to identify reservoir management options to control it. We hypothesized that P. rubescens blooms in reservoirs can be suppressed using selective withdrawal to maximize its export from the reservoir. We also expect that altering the light climate can affect the dynamics of this species. We tested our hypothesis in Rappbode Reservoir (the largest drinking water reservoir in Germany) by establishing a series of withdrawal and light scenarios based on a calibrated water quality model (CE-QUAL-W2).

Results The novel withdrawal strategy, in which water is withdrawn from a certain depth below the surface within the metalimnion instead of at a fixed elevation relative to the dam wall, significantly reduced P. rubescens biomass in the reservoir. According to the simulation results, we defined an optimal withdrawal volume to control P. rubescens blooms in the reservoir as approximately 10 million m3 (10% of the reservoir volume) during its bloom phase. The results also illustrated that P. rubescens growth can be most effectively suppressed if the metalimnetic withdrawal is applied in the early stage of its rapid growth, i.e., before the bloom occurs. In addition, our study showed that P. rubescens biomass gradually decreased with increasing light extinction and nearly disappeared when the extinction coefficient exceeded 0.55 m−1.

Conclusions Our study indicates the rise in P. rubescens biomass can be effectively offset by selective withdrawal as well as by reducing light intensity beneath the water surface. Considering the widespread occurrence of P. rubescens in stratified lakes and reservoirs worldwide, we believe the results will be helpful for scientists and managers working on other water bodies to minimize the negative impacts of this harmful cyanobacteria. Our model may serve as a transferable tool to explore local dynamics in other standing waters.

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Environmental Sciences Europe

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© The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

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Mi, C; Hamilton, DP; Frassl, MA; Shatwell, T; Kong, X; Boehrer, B; Li, Y; Donner, J; Rinke, K, Controlling blooms of Planktothrix rubescens by optimized metalimnetic water withdrawal: a modelling study on adaptive reservoir operation, Environmental Sciences Europe, 2022, 34, pp. 102