Temporal variability in lake phytoplankton is controlled largely by a complex interplay between hydrodynamic and chemical factors, and food web interactions. We explored mechanisms underlying phytoplankton interannual variability in Lake Washington (USA), using a 25-yr time series of water quality data (1975-1999). Time-series analysis and PCA were used to decompose chlorophyll data into modes of variability. We found that phytoplankton dynamics in Lake Washington were characterized by four seasonal modes, each of which was associated with different ecological processes. The first mode coincided with the period when the system was light limited (January-March) and phytoplankton patterns were driven by the amount of available solar radiation. The second mode (April-June) coincided with the peak of the spring bloom and the subsequent decline of phytoplankton biomass, and was largely controlled by total phosphorus levels and grazing pressure from cladoceran zooplankton. Evidence of co-dependence and tight relationship between phytoplankton and cladoceran dynamics were also found from July to October when a large portion of the phosphorus supply in the mixed layer was provided by zooplankton excretion. The fourth mode (November-December) was associated with the transition to thermal and chemical homogeneity and the winter phytoplankton minima (2-2.5 μg/l). Finally, we examined the effects of meteorological forcing and large-scale oceanic climate fluctuations (ENSO and PDO) on phytoplankton dynamics and assessed the significance of their role on the interannual variability in the lake. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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