Rebecca North Serves as Editor of Special Issue in Prestigious Journal

Rebecca North, assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources, recently served as an invited editor of a special issue in Frontiers in Environmental Science and Frontiers in Marine Ecosystem Ecology. The focus of the special issue was on climate change and light in both freshwater and marine ecosystems, including the variability and ecological consequences.

Along with serving as a guest editor, two of North’s graduate students published papers in the Environmental Science section in the issue.

“The goal of this research topic was to provide a broad overview of how aquatic light environments are changing at present, and how they may change in the future,” North said. “Light is a master variable in aquatic ecosystems. Because of light’s central role, it is important to understand how global climate and other environmental changes are affecting light in all aquatic environments including inland, coastal, and marine ecosystems.

“For example, there have been shifts in circulation and stratification related to warming water temperatures and shorter winters, all of which can alter the underwater light environment. This issue highlights factors contributing to changes in transparency and the resultant impacts on ecosystem processes. We need a better grasp of the implications of both the timing and the magnitude of altered light conditions on our aquatic ecosystems on a global scale.”

Jacob Gaskill, a PhD student in water resources, published a paper titled, “Phytoplankton Community Response to Changes in Light: Can Glacial Rock Flour be used to Control Cyanobacterial Blooms?

“Cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (HABs) are one of the most prominent threats to water quality in freshwater ecosystems and are expected to become more common as the climate continues to change,” Gaskill said. “While traditional strategies to manage HABs have focused on controlling nutrients, manipulating light as a way to reduce cyanobacteria is less frequently explored. Here, we added glacial rock flour, a fine particulate that floats on the water’s surface and remains suspended in the water column, to reduce light availability and in turn, phytoplankton biomass dominated by cyanobacteria.”

Erin Petty, a master’s student in water resources, published paper is titled, “Filling in the Flyover Zone: High Phosphorus in Midwestern (USA) Reservoirs Results in High Phytoplankton Biomass but Not High Primary Productivity.”

“In lakes and reservoirs, climate change increases surface water temperatures, promotes thermal stability and causes dead zones,” Petty said. “Increased anthropogenic land-use and precipitation enhance nutrient and sediment supply. Together, these effects alter the light and nutrient dynamics constraining phytoplankton biomass and productivity. Given that lake and reservoir processes differ, and that globally, reservoir numbers are increasing to meet water demands, reservoir-centric studies remain underrepresented. Here, we explore influences of nutrients and land-use on the light and nutrient status of phytoplankton communities in 32 Missouri reservoirs. If agricultural midwestern reservoirs are precursors of future inland waters affected by climate change, our crystal ball indicates that both phosphorus and light will be important regulators of phytoplankton dynamics and subsequent water quality.”

North’s lab is focused on addressing the question of why inland waters are turning green. Her team focuses on the effects of multiple stressors on nutrient cycling, bioavailability, and primary production in Missouri water bodies with particular attention to the source and timing of nutrient loading and the response of the receiving water body.