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Title: Pseudo-nitzschia Bloom Dynamics in the Gulf of Maine: 2012–2016
The toxic diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia is a growing presence in the Gulf of Maine (GOM), where regionally unprecedented levels of domoic acid (DA) in 2016 led to the first Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning closures in the region. However, factors driving GOM Pseudo-nitzschia dynamics, DA concentrations, and the 2016 event are unclear. Water samples were collected at the surface and at depth in offshore transects in summer 2012, 2014, and 2015, and fall 2016, and a weekly time series of surface water samples was collected in 2013. Temperature and salinity data were obtained from NERACOOS buoys and measurements during sample collection. Samples were processed for particulate DA (pDA), dissolved nutrients (nitrate, ammonium, silicic acid, and phosphate), and cellular abundance. Species composition was estimated via Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA), a semi-quantitative DNA finger-printing tool. Pseudo-nitzschia biogeography was consistent in the years 2012, 2014, and 2015, with greater Pseudo-nitzschia cell abundance and P. plurisecta dominance in low-salinity inshore samples, and lower Pseudo-nitzschia cell abundance and P. delicatissima and P. seriata dominance in high-salinity offshore samples. During the 2016 event, pDA concentrations were an order of magnitude higher than in previous years, and inshore-offshore contrasts in biogeography were weak, with P. australis present in every sample. Patterns in temporal and spatial variability confirm that pDA increases with the abundance and the cellular DA of Pseudo-nitzschia species, but was not correlated with any one environmental factor. The greater pDA in 2016 was caused by P. australis – the observation of which is unprecedented in the region – and may have been exacerbated by low residual silicic acid. The novel presence of P. australis may be due to local growth conditions, the introduction of a population with an anomalous water mass, or both factors. A definitive cause of the 2016 bloom remains unknown, and continued DA monitoring in the GOM is warranted.  more » « less
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Harmful algae
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National Science Foundation
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