Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Biogeosciences, 11, 3619-3633, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
04 Jul 2014
Multidecadal time series of satellite-detected accumulations of cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea
M. Kahru1,2 and R. Elmgren2 1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0218, USA
2Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, SE-10691, Stockholm, Sweden
Abstract. Cyanobacteria, primarily of the species \textit{Nodularia spumigena}, form extensive surface accumulations in the Baltic Sea in July and August, ranging from diffuse flakes to dense surface scums. The area of these accumulations can reach ~ 200 000 km2. We describe the compilation of a 35-year-long time series (1979–2013) of cyanobacteria surface accumulations in the Baltic Sea using multiple satellite sensors. This appears to be one of the longest satellite-based time series in biological oceanography. The satellite algorithm is based on remote sensing reflectance of the water in the red band, a measure of turbidity. Validation of the satellite algorithm using horizontal transects from a ship of opportunity showed the strongest relationship with phycocyanin fluorescence (an indicator of cyanobacteria), followed by turbidity and then by chlorophyll a fluorescence. The areal fraction with cyanobacteria accumulations (FCA) and the total accumulated area affected (TA) were used to characterize the intensity and extent of the accumulations. The fraction with cyanobacteria accumulations was calculated as the ratio of the number of detected accumulations to the number of cloud-free sea-surface views per pixel during the season (July–August). The total accumulated area affected was calculated by adding the area of pixels where accumulations were detected at least once during the season. The fraction with cyanobacteria accumulations and TA were correlated (R2 = 0.55) and both showed large interannual and decadal-scale variations. The average FCA was significantly higher for the second half of the time series (13.8%, 1997–2013) than for the first half (8.6%, 1979–1996). However, that does not seem to represent a long-term trend but decadal-scale oscillations. Cyanobacteria accumulations were common in the 1970s and early 1980s (FCA between 11–17%), but rare (FCA below 4%) during 1985–1990; they increased again starting in 1991 and particularly in 1999, reaching maxima in FCA (~ 25%) and TA (~ 210 000 km2) in 2005 and 2008. After 2008, FCA declined to more moderate levels (6–17%). The timing of the accumulations has become earlier in the season, at a mean rate of 0.6 days per year, resulting in approximately 20 days advancement during the study period. The interannual variations in FCA are positively correlated with the concentration of chlorophyll a during July–August sampled at the depth of ~ 5 m by a ship of opportunity, but interannual variations in FCA are more pronounced as the coefficient of variation is over 5 times higher.

Citation: Kahru, M. and Elmgren, R.: Multidecadal time series of satellite-detected accumulations of cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea, Biogeosciences, 11, 3619-3633, doi:10.5194/bg-11-3619-2014, 2014.
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