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Long-term study of phytoplankton dynamics in a supply reservoir reveals signs of trophic state shift linked to changes in hydrodynamics associated with flow management and extreme events.

Water Research 2024 March 29
This study analyses over a decade (2009-2022) of monitoring data to understand the impact of hydrological characteristics on water quality and phytoplankton dynamics in Prospect Reservoir, a critical water supply for Greater Sydney, Australia, known for its excellent water quality. Water quality and phytoplankton dynamics were related to hydrodynamics, linked to flow management and the water quality of inflows. Phytoplankton biovolume increased after a prolonged drawdown and subsequent refill event, mainly driven by dinoflagellates, and corresponded to increases in total phosphorus and water temperature. The hydrological period following the 2019/2020 summer bushfires (post-bushfire) that impacted connected reservoirs, was marked by increased flow activity and nutrient loading, leading to significant shifts in the phytoplankton community. Functional group classification and ordination analysis indicated a transition from taxa typically dominant in oligotrophic conditions to meso‑eutrophic. This transition correlated with elevated nutrient levels and chlorophyll-a (Chl-a), and reduced Secchi depth and dissolved oxygen, providing evidence of eutrophication. Q index indicated good water quality post-bushfire, contrasting with a eutrophic status assessment using Chl-a. Our findings highlight the importance of analysing long-term datasets encompassing varied hydroclimatological conditions for a deeper understanding of reservoir behaviour. A comprehensive approach to water quality assessment is recommended, combining functional group classification, Q index and Chl-a measurements for effective reservoir health assessment. This research provides novel insights into the effects of disturbances such as bushfires, on water quality and phytoplankton dynamics in an underrepresented geographic region, offering valuable knowledge for managing water resources amidst growing climate variability.

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