Hot moments and hotspots of cyanobacteria hyperblooms in the Curonian Lagoon (SE Baltic Sea) revealed via remote sensing-based retrospective analysis

Sci Total Environ. 2021 May 15;769:145053. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145053. Epub 2021 Jan 9.


A temporally and spatially detailed historical (1985-2018) analysis of cyanobacteria blooms was performed in the Curonian Lagoon (Lithuania, Russia), the largest coastal lagoon in the Baltic Sea. Satellite data allowed the mapping of cyanobacteria surface accumulations, so-called "scums", and of chlorophyll-a concentration. The 34-year time series shows a tendency towards later occurrence (October-November) of the cyanobacteria scum presence, whereas the period of its onset (June-July) remains relatively constant. The periods when scums are present, "hot moments", have been consistently increasing in duration since 2008. The differences in the starting, ending and annual duration of cyanobacteria blooms have been significantly altered by hydro-meteorological conditions (river discharge, water temperature, and wind conditions) and their year-round patterns. The most important environmental factors that determined the temporal changes of the scum presence and area were the standing stock of cyanobacteria and the ambient wind conditions. The "hotspots", the areas where the blooms most likely occur, were distributed in the south-southwestern and central parts of the lagoon. The least affected areas were the northern part, which is connected to the coastal waters of the Baltic Sea, and the Nemunas River delta region. The longstanding, well-established spatial patterns of cyanobacteria blooms were linked to hydrodynamic features, namely water renewal time and current patterns, and to potential nutrient sources that included muddy sediments and the locations of colonies of piscivorous birds. Our findings confirmed that the annual and seasonal variations of cyanobacteria blooms and their regulation are a complex issue due to interactions between multiple factors over spatially and temporally broad scales. Despite great progress in the prevention and control of eutrophication and cyanobacteria blooms, the lagoon is still considered to be in a poor ecological status. This work provides a new and missing understanding on the spatial and temporal extent of cyanobacteria blooms and the factors that govern them. Such an understanding can help in planning management strategies, forecasting the magnitude and severity of blooms under changing nutrient loads and potential climate scenarios.

Keywords: Curonian Lagoon; Cyanobacteria scum; Drivers of hyperblooms; Eutrophication; Remote sensing.

MeSH terms

  • Baltic States
  • Cyanobacteria*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Eutrophication
  • Lithuania
  • Remote Sensing Technology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Russia