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.
The irregular appearance of planktonic algae blooms off the coast of southern California has been a source of wonder for over a century. Although large algal blooms can have significant negative impacts on ecosystems and human health, a predictive understanding of these events has eluded science, and many have come to regard them as ultimately random phenomena. However, the highly nonlinear nature of ecological dynamics can give the appearance of randomness and stress traditional methods—such as model fitting or analysis of variance—to the point of breaking. The intractability of this problem from a classical linear standpoint can thus give the impression that algal blooms are fundamentally unpredictable. Here, we use an exceptional time series study of coastal phytoplankton dynamics at La Jolla, CA, with an equation-free modeling approach, to show that these phenomena are not random, but can be understood as nonlinear population dynamics forced by external stochastic drivers (so-called “stochastic chaos”). The combination of this modeling approach with an extensive dataset allows us to not only describe historical behavior and clarify existing hypotheses about the mechanisms, but also make out-of-sample predictions of recent algal blooms at La Jolla that were not included in the model development.
Coastal ecosystems, which provide numerous essential ecological functions for fish, are threatened by the proliferation of green macroalgae that significantly modify habitat conditions in intertidal areas. Understanding the influence of green tides on the nursery function of these ecosystems is essential to determine their potential effects on fish recruitment success. In this study, the influence of green tides on juvenile fish was examined in an intertidal sandy beach area, the Bay of Saint-Brieuc (Northwestern France), during two annual cycles of green tides with varying levels of intensity. The responses of three nursery-dependent fish species, the pelagic Sprattus sprattus (L.), the demersal Dicentrarchus labrax (L.) and the benthic Pleuronectes platessa L., were analysed to determine the effects of green tides according to species-specific habitat niche and behaviour. The responses to this perturbation were investigated based on habitat selection and a comparison of individual performance between a control and an impacted site. Several indices on different integrative scales were examined to evaluate these responses (antioxidant defence capacity, muscle total lipid, morphometric condition and growth). Based on these analyses, green tides affect juvenile fish differently according to macroalgal density and species-specific tolerance, which is linked to their capacity to move and to their distribution in the water column. A decreasing gradient of sensitivity was observed from benthic to demersal and pelagic fish species. At low densities of green macroalgae, the three species stayed at the impacted site and the growth of plaice was reduced. At medium macroalgal densities, plaice disappeared from the impacted site and the growth of sea bass and the muscle total lipid content of sprat were reduced. Finally, when high macroalgal densities were reached, none of the studied species were captured at the impacted site. Hence, sites affected by green tides are less favourable nursery grounds for all the studied species, with species-specific effects related to macroalgal density.
Enrichment of nutrients and metals in seawater associated with anthropogenic activities can threaten aquatic ecosystems. Consequently, nutrient and metal concentrations are parameters used to define water quality. The European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD) goes further than a contaminant-based approach and utilises indices to assess the Ecological Status (ES) of transitional water bodies (e.g. estuaries and lagoons). One assessment is based upon the abundance of opportunistic Ulva species, as an indication of eutrophication. The objective of this study was to characterise Ireland’s Ulva blooms through the use of WFD assessment, metal concentrations and taxonomic identity. Furthermore, the study assessed whether the ecological assessment is related to the metal composition in the Ulva. WFD algal bloom assessment revealed that the largest surveyed blooms had an estimated biomass of 2164 metric tonnes (w/w). DNA sequences identified biomass from all locations as Ulva rigida, with the exception of New Quay, which was Ulva rotundata. Some blooms contained significant amounts of As, Cu, Cr, Pb and Sn. The results showed that all metal concentrations had a negative relationship (except Se) with the Ecological Quality Ratio (EQR). However, only in the case of Mn were these differences significant (p = 0.038). Overall, the metal composition and concentrations found in Ulva were site dependent, and not clearly related to the ES. Nevertheless, sites with a moderate or poor ES had a higher variability in the metals levels than in estuaries with a high ES.
Ulva is the dominant genus in the green tide events and is considered to have efficient CO2concentrating mechanisms (CCMs). However, little is understood regarding the impacts of ocean acidification on the CCMs of Ulva and the consequences of thalli’s acclimation to ocean acidification in terms of responding to environmental factors. Here, we grew a cosmopolitan green alga, Ulva linza at ambient (LC) and elevated (HC) CO2 levels and investigated the alteration of CCMs in U. linza grown at HC and its responses to the changed seawater carbon chemistry and light intensity. The inhibitors experiment for photosynthetic inorganic carbon utilization demonstrated that acidic compartments, extracellular carbonic anhydrase (CA) and intracellular CA worked together in the thalli grown at LC and the acquisition of exogenous carbon source in the thalli could be attributed to the collaboration of acidic compartments and extracellular CA. Contrastingly, when U. linza was grown at HC, extracellular CA was completely inhibited, acidic compartments and intracellular CA were also down-regulated to different extents and thus the acquisition of exogenous carbon source solely relied on acidic compartments. The down-regulated CCMs in U. linza did not affect its responses to changes of seawater carbon chemistry but led to a decrease of net photosynthetic rate when thalli were exposed to increased light intensity. This decrease could be attributed to photodamage caused by the combination of the saved energy due to the down-regulated CCMs and high light intensity. Our findings suggest future ocean acidification might impose depressing effects on green tide events when combined with increased light exposure.
Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by certain marine microalgae that can accumulate in the foodweb, posing a health threat to human seafood consumers and wildlife in coastal regions worldwide. Evidence of climatic regulation of domoic acid in shellfish over the past 20 y in the Northern California Current regime is shown. The timing of elevated domoic acid is strongly related to warm phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Oceanic Niño Index, an indicator of El Niño events. Ocean conditions in the northeast Pacific that are associated with warm phases of these indices, including changes in prevailing currents and advection of anomalously warm water masses onto the continental shelf, are hypothesized to contribute to increases in this toxin. We present an applied domoic acid risk assessment model for the US West Coast based on combined climatic and local variables. Evidence of regional- to basin-scale controls on domoic acid has not previously been presented. Our findings have implications in coastal zones worldwide that are affected by this toxin and are particularly relevant given the increased frequency of anomalously warm ocean conditions.