Phytoplankton Composition and Temporal Variation among the Three Basins of Lake Whatcom, Washington

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Science

First Advisor

Matthews, Robin A., 1952-

Second Advisor

Lacher, Thomas

Third Advisor

Matthews, Geoffrey


The phytoplankton populations were studied over a one year period in the three basins of Lake Whatcom, a warm, monomictic, chain lake in northwestern Washington. The water quality in all three basins was similar while the lake was unstratified. Following stratification, basins 1 and 2 developed anoxic hypolimnia, with subsequent release of ammonia and phosphorus from the sediments, while basin 3 had relatively high concentrations of oxygen throughout the water column. During the summer the flow out of basin 1 was greatly reduced, while the flow in basin 2 was maintained through the municipal water withdrawal by the City of Bellingham, WA. Water quality conditions developed in basin 1 that favored the growth of the blue-green alga Coelosphaerium naegelianum (low concentrations of combined, inorganic nitrogen and low N:P ratios). Ceolosphaenum biovolume in basin 2 was approximately 3% that of basin 1 while basin 3 did not develop a significant blue-green algal population. Although the Coelosphaerium blooms were correlated with the internal release of ammonia and phosphorus during stratification, basin 2 did not develop Ceolosphaerium blooms similar to basin 1 because of the greater inflow of water from basin 3, which contained comparatively higher concentrations of nitrate, and because of the increased flushing rate in basin 2 due to the municipal water withdrawal.


Lake Whatcom phytoplankton populations, Water quality conditions, Coelosphaerium naegelianum, Anoxic hypolimnia

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