Spring Isothermal Mixing In the Great Lakes: Evidence of Nutrient Limitation and Nutrient-Light Interactions in a Suboptimal Light Environment

Document Type


Publication Date



Marine Science


During the spring isothermal mixing period (April-May) in 1993-1995, photosynthesis-irradiance and growth-irradiance experiments were conducted in Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Ontario to assess light limitation. Additionally, nutrient enrichment experiments were conducted in Lake Ontario. Results from the photosynthesis-irradiance experiments suggested that phytoplankton communities in all the lakes can be either light limited or light saturated, as the threshold parameter (I-k) was similar to mean water column irradiances (mean (I) over bar(wc), ratio = 1.0). Growth-irradiance experiments also suggested the potential for light saturation; mean daily irradiance exceeded the threshold growth irradiance (I-k,I-g) in 95% of cases. Growth rates became light saturated at lower irradiances than photosynthetic rates. Evidence for a nutrient-light interaction in controlling in situ growth rates was also found in the nutrient enrichment experiments at incubation irradiances greater than or equal to (I) over bar(wc). Our results suggest that an interaction between nutrients and light is often controlling phytoplankton growth during spring mixing in the Great Lakes. The role of these nutrient-light interactions has increased in the past decade due to increased light availability in the lower lakes caused by phosphorus load reductions and the filtering activities of nonindigenous mussels.

Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences





First Page


Last Page


Find in your library