Aquatic Sciences

, 81:48 | Cite as

The relative importance of weather and nutrients determining phytoplankton assemblages differs between seasons in large Lake Taihu, China

  • Jianming Deng
  • Nico Salmaso
  • Erik Jeppesen
  • Boqiang QinEmail author
  • Yunlin Zhang
Research Article


Climate change affects seasonal weather patterns, but little is known about the consequent effects on phytoplankton assemblage variation. We studied the changes in phytoplankton assemblages, expressed as morpho-functional groups, during four seasons over the past two decades in large shallow eutrophic Lake Taihu, China. During this period, both climate and nutrient levels changed in the lake. Wind speed declined significantly from 1997 to 2016 in all seasons, while global radiation increased significantly in spring and winter. Phosphorus and chlorophyll a concentrations showed a significant increasing trend in all seasons, especially in summer and autumn. Diatoms, mainly Aulacoseira and Asterionella, increased during late winter and early spring. Multiple stepwise regression analysis and non-metric multidimensional scaling indicated that climatic variables (i.e., decreasing wind speed and increasing global radiation) were the main drivers of phytoplankton assemblage variance in winter and early spring. An increase in the dominance of cyanobacteria (mainly Microcystis spp.) in summer and autumn was mainly related to changes in phosphorus. Our results indicate that both nutrients and climatic variables were major drivers of the observed changes in phytoplankton assemblages, differing in importance between seasons. The differential response of phytoplankton community variation to future environmental change in the different seasons needs to be taken into account when evaluating the long-term changes in phytoplankton.


Subtropical lakes Phytoplankton assemblage Global warming Functional groups 



The study was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41661134036 and 41621002), the Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, CAS (Grant No. QYZDB-SSW-DQC016), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province, China (Grant No. BK20171517), and “One-Three-Five” Strategic Planning of Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. Y7SL061003). We would like to thank the Taihu Laboratory for Lake Ecosystem Research (TLLER) for providing long-term monitoring data on Lake Taihu. Phytoplankton data from 1997 to 2010 were provided by Dr. Yuwei Chen. EJ was supported by AU Centre for Water Technology ( The authors also would also like to thank the two reviewers and editor for their useful comments and constructive suggestions for manuscript. The work was finished while JM stayed at the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University (Silkeborg, Denmark) as a visiting postdoctoral researcher, sponsored by the China Scholarship Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jianming Deng
    • 1
  • Nico Salmaso
    • 2
  • Erik Jeppesen
    • 3
    • 4
  • Boqiang Qin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yunlin Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Taihu Lake Laboratory Ecosystem Research Station, State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography and LimnologyChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.Research and Innovation CentreFondazione Edmund MachSan Michele all’AdigeItaly
  3. 3.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversitySilkeborgDenmark
  4. 4.Sino-Danish Centre for Education and Research (SDC)University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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