Key Laboratory of Pollution Processes and Environmental Criteria, Ministry of Education, and Tianjin Key Laboratory of Environmental Remediation and Pollution Control, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Assessing the key drivers of eutrophication in lakes and reservoirs has long been a challenge, and many studies have developed empirical models for predicting the relative importance of these drivers. However, the relative roles of various parameters might differ not only spatially (between regions or localities) but also at a temporal scale. In this study, the relative roles of total phosphorus, total nitrogen, ammonia, wind speed and water temperature were selected as potential drivers of phytoplankton biomass by using chlorophyll a as a proxy for biomass. A generalized additive model (GAM) and a random forest model (RF) were developed to assess the predictability of chlorophyll a and the relative importance of various predictors driving algal blooms at different timescales in a freshwater lake. The results showed that the daily datasets yielded better predictability than the monthly datasets. In addition, at a daily scale, water temperature was a more important predictor of chlorophyll a than nutrients, and the importance of phosphorus was comparable to that of nitrogen. In contrast, at a monthly scale, nutrients are more important predictors than water temperature and phosphorus is a better predictor than nitrogen. This study indicates that the drivers of phytoplankton fluctuations vary at different timescales and that timescale has an influence on the relative roles of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation in lakes, which suggests that the temporal scale should be considered when explaining phytoplankton fluctuations. Moreover, this study provides a reference for the monitoring of phytoplankton fluctuations and for understanding the mechanisms underlying phytoplankton fluctuations at different timescales.