First steps of ecological restoration in Mediterranean lagoons: Shifts in phytoplankton communities

Along the French Mediterranean coast, a complex of eight lagoons underwent intensive eutrophication over four decades, mainly related to nutrient over-enrichment from continuous sewage discharges. The lagoon complex displayed a wide trophic gradient from mesotrophy to hypertrophy and primary production was dominated by phytoplankton communities. In 2005, the implementation of an 11 km offshore outfall system diverted the treated sewage effluents leading to a drastic reduction of anthropogenic inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus into the lagoons. Time series data have been examined from 2000 to 2013 for physical, chemical and biological (phytoplankton) variables of the water column during the summer period. Since 2006, total nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations as well as chlorophyll biomass strongly decreased revealing an improvement in lagoon water quality. In summertime, the decline in phytoplankton biomass was accompanied by shifts in community structure and composition that could be explained by adopting a functional approach by considering the common functional traits of the main algal groups. These phytoplankton communities were dominated by functional groups of small-sized and fast-growing algae (diatoms, cryptophytes and green algae). The trajectories of summer phytoplankton communities displayed a complex response to changing nutrient loads over time. While diatoms were the major group in 2006 in all the lagoons, the summer phytoplankton composition in hypertrophic lagoons has shifted towards green algae, which are particularly well adapted to summertime conditions. All lagoons showed increasing proportion and occurrence of peridinin-rich dinophytes over time, probably related to their capacity for mixotrophy. The diversity patterns were marked by a strong variability in eutrophic and hypertrophic lagoons whereas phytoplankton community structure reached the highest diversity and stability in mesotrophic lagoons. We observe that during the re-oligotrophication process in coastal lagoons, phytoplankton shows complex trajectories with similarities with those observed in freshwater lake systems.


Phytoplankton, Coastal lagoons, Nutrient, Sewage effluents, Re-oligotrophication

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Leruste A., Malet Nathalie, Munaron Dominique, Derolez Valerie, Hatey E., Collos Y., de Wit R., Bec B. (2016). First steps of ecological restoration in Mediterranean lagoons: Shifts in phytoplankton communities. Estuarine Coastal And Shelf Science. 180. 190-203.,

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