Natural disturbances such as fires and severe storms can have profound impacts on the hydrology and ecology of inland waters, potentially altering the structure and function of the ecosystem for extended periods of time. Studies of the initial impacts are, however, uncommon. Here we report on the short-term impacts of Hurricane Irma in the structure of the phytoplankton association in Lake Louise, a small blackwater lake in southern Georgia. Irma hit the region on September 11, 2017, with tropical storm force winds. The event corresponded to a period during which we were conducting routine weekly monitoring of environmental conditions in the lake. Parameters monitored included temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and light from the surface to a depth of 6 m. Chlorophyll concentrations and the structure of the phytoplankton were also determined at 1 m intervals from the surface to a depth of 5 m. An increase in the overall abundance of phytoplankton in the upper meter of the lake and a decrease in the abundance of phytoplankton deeper in the water column were observed immediately after Hurricane Irma. These decreases were followed by a bloom involving several species of cyanobacteria beginning about four weeks after the passage of the hurricane. Signatures of the passage of the hurricane were erased in early December as cooler temperatures created isothermal conditions in the lake.


This work was funded, in part, by Marine Microalgae Research Associates LLC, Valdosta GA, and by grants to JAN from the Major Equipment Scientific Equipment Funding Pool at Valdosta State University.