Concentration of total microcystins associates with nitrate and nitrite, and may disrupt the nitrogen cycle, in warm-monomictic lakes of the southcentral United States. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cyanobacterial blooms and the toxins they produce pose a growing threat worldwide. Mitigation of such events has primarily focused on phosphorus management and has largely neglected the role of nitrogen. Previous bloom research and proposed management strategies have primarily focused on temperate, dimictic lakes, and less on warm-monomictic systems like those at subtropical latitudes. The in-lake conditions, concentration of total microcystins, and microbial functioning of twenty warm-monomictic lakes in the southcentral United States were explored in the spring and summer of 2021. Our data revealed widespread microcystins in lakes across this region, some of which exceeded regulatory limits. Microcystins were higher in the spring compared to the summer, indicating that warm-monomictic lakes, even across a large range of precipitation, do not follow the trends of temperate dimictic lakes. Microcystins were found in surface waters and bottom waters well below the photic zone, reflecting the persistence of these toxins in the environment. Principal components analyses showed a strong association between microcystins, nitrate+nitrite, and Planktothrix relative abundance and transcriptional activity. Many systems exhibited stronger denitrification in the spring, perhaps contributing to the decreased toxin concentrations in the summer. Counter to most sampled lakes, one lake with the highest concentration of total microcystins indicated nitrogen cycle disruption, including inhibited denitrification. These findings are relevant to mitigating cyanobacterial blooms and toxin production in warm-monomictic systems, and suggests a need to consider nitrogen, and not solely phosphorus, in nutrient management discussions.

published proceedings

  • Harmful Algae

author list (cited authors)

  • Kieley, C. M., Roelke, D. L., Park, R., Campbell, K. L., Klobusnik, N. H., Walker, J. R., ... Labont, J. M.

complete list of authors

  • Kieley, Crista M||Roelke, Daniel L||Park, Royoung||Campbell, Kathryn L||Klobusnik, N Hagen||Walker, Jordan R||Cagle, Sierra E||Kneer, Marissa L||Stroski, Kevin M||Brooks, Bryan W||Labonté, Jessica M

publication date

  • December 2023