Harmful algae can cause death in fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and humans, via their toxins or from effects associated with their sheer quantity. There are many species, which cause a variety of problems around north-west Europe, and the frequency and distribution of algal blooms have altered in the recent past. Species distribution modelling was used to understand how harmful algal species may respond in the future to climate change, by considering environmental preferences and how these may shift. Most distribution studies to date use low resolution global model outputs. In this study, high resolution, downscaled shelf seas climate projections for the north-west European shelf were nested within lower resolution global projections, to understand how the distribution of harmful algae may change by the mid to end of century. Projections suggest that the habitat of most species (defined by temperature, salinity, depth, and stratification) will shift north this century, with suitability increasing in the central and northern North Sea. An increase in occurrence here might lead to more frequent detrimental blooms if wind, irradiance and nutrient levels are also suitable. Prioritizing monitoring of species in these susceptible areas could help in establishing early-warning systems for aquaculture and health protection schemes.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) constitute a worldwide problem, affecting aquatic ecosystems, public health and local economies. Supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency since 2009, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela, have integrated a regional network for early warning of HABs and biotoxins in seafood. Technical capacities have been developed at regional level to identify toxic species, evaluate biota toxicity, and to perform retrospective analysis of HAB occurrence. This network involves 58% of the coastal LAC countries, two regional reference centers (in El Salvador and Cuba), 14 well equipped institutions, and 177 professionals trained to contribute to the operation of HAB and biotoxin monitoring programs. All countries from the network have reported planktonic and benthic toxic species, and in selected cases, associated with toxin in biota. Dinocyst abundance analysis in 210Pb-dated sediment cores have shown that some harmful species have been present in the region for at least 100 years ago, and that both coastal water pollution and climate change are important drivers for HAB occurrence. Efforts must be made to enrich the data base records on HAB events occurred in LAC, better understand key environmental variables that control HABs and expand coverage of HAB monitoring to all coastal countries in LAC to promote sustainable development of the region.
In the spring of 2015, a massive harmful algal bloom (HAB) of the toxin-producing diatom Pseudo-nitzschia occurred on the U.S. West Coast, resulting in the largest recorded outbreak of the toxin domoic acid and causing fisheries closures. Closures extended into 2016 and generated an economic shock for coastal fishing communities. This study examines the economic and sociocultural impacts of the Dungeness crab and razor clamfisheries closures on two fishing-dependent communities. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 36 community members from two communities impacted by the event – Crescent City, California and Long Beach, Washington. Interviewees included those involved in the fishing, hospitality, and retail industries, local government officials, recreational harvesters, and others. Interviews probed aspects of resilience in economic, social, institutional, and physical domains, based on the contention that community resilience will influence the communities’ ability to withstand HAB events. Dimensions of vulnerability were also explored, encompassing sensitivity of the communities to HAB events and their adaptive capacity. Common themes that emerged from the interview responses indicate that economic hardships extended beyond fishing-related operations and permeated through other sectors, particularly the hospitality industry. Significant barriers to accessing financial and employment assistance during extended fisheries closures were identified, particularly for fishers. Long-held traditions surrounding crab and shellfish harvest and consumption were disrupted, threatening the cultural identities of the affected communities. Community members expressed a desire for clearer, more thorough, and more rapid dissemination of information regarding the management of fisheries closures and the health risks associated with HAB toxins. The likelihood of intensifying HABs under climate change heightens the need for actions to increase the resilience of fishing communities to the economic and sociocultural impacts caused by HAB-related fisheries closures.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been the subject of many reports released by Mexican Federal Authorities along the Mexican Coast of the Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem (MC-GoM-LME), but extensive research that delves deeply into this issue is lacking. Although Karenia brevis blooms have appeared in all Mexican states (except Quintana Roo) and blooms of Cladophora spp., Chattonella marina, Chattonella subsalsa, Glenodinium pseudostigmosum and Chaetoceros holsaticus are fairly new to the MC-GoM-LME, their spatial and temporal variations are largely unknown. It appears that anthropogenic nutrient over-enrichment is the main driver of eutrophication along the MC-GoM-LME. Trophic conditions based on physicochemical parameters, phytoplankton and submerged aquatic vegetation along the northern coast of Yucatan show the influence of Gulf of Mexico LME and Caribbean Sea LME waters, seasonal upwelling and polluted inputs from submarine groundwater discharges. Meso-eutrophic and oligo-mesotrophic conditions on the coast are associated with human activities such as domestic sewage discharges from septic tanks, harbor effluents and brackish waters from artificial inlets. Coastal lagoons in Veracruz have been impacted by urbanization expansion leading to wastewater discharges, fertilizer runoff and changes in land use. Overall, trophic conditions in Veracruz have improved relative to historic trophic index values. At least for the Yucatan State and the Quintana Roo State, there are sites that appear to link the occurrence of HABs and anthropogenic eutrophication. Additional research over inshore, estuarine, coastal and offshore environments requires future monitoring efforts and collaboration with the international community (especially the U.S.).
Sustainable and effective water management plans must have a reliable risk assessment strategies for harmful cyanobacterial blooms (HABs) that would enable timely decisions to be made, thus avoiding the trespassing of ecological thresholds, leading to the collapse of ecosystem structure and function. Such strategies are usually based on cyanobacterial biomass and/or on the monitoring of known toxins, which may, however, in many cases, under- or over-represent the actual toxicity of the HAB. Therefore, in this study, by the application of growth-inhibition assays using different bacteria, algae, zooplankton and fish species, we assessed the toxicological potential of two cyanobacterial blooms that differed in total cyanobacterial biomass, species composition and cyanopeptide profiles. We demonstrated that neither cyanobacterial community composition nor its relative abundance, nor indeed concentrations of known toxins reflected the potential risk of HAB based on growth-inhibition assays. We discuss our findings in the context of food-web dynamics and ecosystem management, and suggest that toxicological tests should constitute a key element in the routine monitoring of water bodies so as to prevent under-/over-estimation of potential HAB risk for both ecosystem and public health.
Nowadays harmful algal blooms (HABs) represent a serious problem for the conservation of the biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea. Nevertheless the knowledge on the presence of potentially toxic benthic microalgae in particular habitats, such as tide pools, is still scarce. In order to detect HAB-producing benthic microalgae in tide pools of the rocky intertidal zone, a pilot study was conducted in Tavolara Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area (MPA) during the late spring of 2016. Three different pools were sampled in two study sites (six pools were sampled in total) and the cell density of toxic species was estimated in each. In all the collected samples, the two potentially toxic dinoflagellates, Prorocentrum lima (Ehrenberg) F. Stein and Coolia monotis Meunier, were recorded and significant differences in their density were observed, in relation to both sites and pools.
An ecologically and economically disruptive harmful algal bloom (HAB) affected much of the northeast Pacific margin in 2015, during a prolonged oceanic warm anomaly. Caused by diatoms of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia, this HAB produced the highest particulate concentrations of the biotoxin domoic acid (DA) ever recorded in Monterey Bay, California. Bloom inception followed strong upwelling during the spring transition, which introduced nutrients and eliminated the warm anomaly locally. Subsequently, moderate and intermittent upwelling created favorable conditions for growth and accumulation of HAB biomass, which was dominated by a highly toxigenic species, P. australis. High cellular DA concentrations were associated with available nitrogen for DA synthesis coincident with silicate exhaustion. This nutrient influence resulted from two factors: (1) disproportionate depletion of silicate in upwelling source waters during the warm anomaly, the most severe depletion observed in 24 years, and (2) silicate uptake by the dense diatom bloom.
Following heavy precipitation, we observed an intense algal bloom in the St. Lawrence Estuary (SLE) that coincided with an unusually high mortality of several species of marine fish, birds and mammals, including species designated at risk. The algal species was identified as Alexandrium tamarense and was determined to contain a potent mixture of paralytic shellfish toxins (PST). Significant levels of PST were found in the liver and/or gastrointestinal contents of several carcasses tested as well as in live planktivorous fish, molluscs and plankton samples collected during the bloom. This provided strong evidence for the trophic transfer of PST resulting in mortalities of multiple wildlife species. This conclusion was strengthened by the sequence of mortalities, which followed the drift of the bloom along the coast of the St. Lawrence Estuary. No other cause of mortality was identified in the majority of animals examined at necropsy. Reports of marine fauna presenting signs of neurological dysfunction were also supportive of exposure to these neurotoxins. The event reported here represents the first well-documented case of multispecies mass mortality of marine fish, birds and mammals linked to a PST-producing algal bloom.
Quantitative assessment of the pigment phycocyanin (PC) in cyanobacterial blooms is essential to assess their abundance and distribution and consequently aid their management in many recreational waters within inland and coastal environments. In contrast to the open-ocean waters, these water bodies are very complex with a pronounced heterogeneity of their optical properties, and hence accurate retrieval of the water-leaving radiances and PC concentration from satellite observations is notoriously difficult with existing algorithms. In the present study, a new inversion algorithm is developed as a rapid cyanobacteria bloom assessment method and its retrievals of PCare compared with in-situ and satellite observations and those from a previously reported inversion algorithm. The new algorithm estimates PC concentration on the basis of the unique absorption feature of phycocyanin at 620 nm which is isolated from the total pigment absorption by taking advantage of the well-recognized absorption and reflectance features in the red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths (less impacted by the influences of the overlapping absorption signatures of the mixture constituents and pigment packaging). The by-products of this work include chl-a concentration and predictions from reflectance data to monitor the cyanobacterial component and non-cyanobacterial component of the phytoplankton assemblage and to evaluate PC:Chl-apigment weight ratios for specific water types. Initial validation of the algorithm was performed using in-situ field data in turbid productive waters dominated by phycocyanin and other pigments, yielding coefficients of determination and slope close to unity and mean errors less than a few percent. These results suggest that the algorithm could be used as a rapid assessment tool for the remote-sensing assessment of the spatial distribution and relative abundance of cyanobacterial blooms in many regional water bodies.
Global ocean temperatures are rising, yet the impacts of such changes on harmful algal blooms (HABs) are not fully understood. Here we used high-resolution sea-surface temperature records (1982 to 2016) and temperature-dependent growth rates of two algae that produce potent biotoxins, Alexandrium fundyense and Dinophysis acuminata, to evaluate recent changes in these HABs. For both species, potential mean annual growth rates and duration of bloom seasons significantly increased within many coastal Atlantic regions between 40°N and 60°N, where incidents of these HABs have emerged and expanded in recent decades. Widespread trends were less evident across the North Pacific, although regions were identified across the Salish Sea and along the Alaskan coastline where blooms have recently emerged, and there have been significant increases in the potential growth rates and duration of these HAB events. We conclude that increasing ocean temperature is an important factor facilitating the intensification of these, and likely other, HABs and thus contributes to an expanding human health threat.