The Cladophora resurgence in Lake Ontario: characterization and implications for management

Document Type


Publication Date



Nuisance growth of the alga Cladophora, reported from Lake Ontario since the 1930s, abated in the decades following implementation of phosphorus control measures in the 1970s. Our examination of beach fouling records and historical observations of algal biomass has confirmed literature reports that a resurgence in nuisance growth of Cladophora has occurred since invasion of Great Lakes waters by dreissenids. Our findings indicate that the growth rate of Cladophora(specific rate of net photosynthesis) has decreased by 44% since 1972 in response to phosphorus controls. However, improved transparency, a response to mussel activity, has increased the maximum depth colonizable by Cladophora by a factor of 5 over that same interval. The net result is a sixfold increase in production potential since the late 1980s (the Post-P Management II Period) and a threefold increase since the 1970s (the Pre-P Management Period). Although the Cladophora resurgence has been driven by dreissenid modification of the light environment, phosphorus management remains the only alternative for reversing and ameliorating nuisance conditions. Elucidation of the nature of the Cladophora resurgence will aid decision-makers in maintaining a focus on phosphorus management as the appropriate means of remediating nuisance growth of the alga.

Publisher's Statement

Copyright © 2016, NRC Research Press or its licensors. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfas-2015-0460

Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences