Repeated hydrogen peroxide dosing briefly reduces cyanobacterial blooms and microcystin while increasing fecal bacteria indicators in a eutrophic pond

Christopher J. Gobler , Mark W. Lusty


Received July 15, 2021,Revised , Accepted November 23, 2021, Available online February 23, 2022

Volume 35,2023,Pages 522-543

This study explored the effects of H2O2 on Cyanobacteria and non-target microbes using fluorometry, microscopy, flow cytometry, and high throughput DNA sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene during a series of mesocosm and whole-ecosystem experiments in a eutrophic pond in NY, USA. The addition of H2O2 (8 mg/L) significantly reduced Cyanobacteria concentrations during a majority of experiments (66%; 6 of 9) and significantly increased eukaryotic green and unicellular brown algae in 78% and 45% of experiments, respectively. While heterotrophic bacteria declined significantly following H2O2 addition in all experiments, bacteria indicative of potential fecal contamination (Escherichia coli, Enterococcus, fecal coliform bacteria) consistently and significantly increased in response to H2O2, evidencing a form of ‘pollution swapping’. H2O2 more effectively reduced Cyanobacteria in enclosed mesocosms compared to whole-ecosystem applications. Ten whole-pond H2O2 applications over a two-year period temporarily reduced cyanobacterial levels but never reduced concentrations below bloom thresholds and populations always rebounded in two weeks or less. The bacterial phyla of Cyanobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Planctomycetes were the most negatively impacted by H2O2. Microcystis was always reduced by H2O2, as was the toxin microcystin, but Microcystis remained dominant even after repeated H2O2 treatments. Although H2O2 favored the growth of eukaryotic algae over potentially harmful Cyanobacteria, the inability of H2O2 to end cyanobacterial blooms in this eutrophic waterbody suggests it is a non-ideal mitigation approach in high biomass ecosystems and should be used judiciously due to potential negative impacts on non-target organisms and promotion of bacteria indicative of fecal contamination.

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