skip to main content

Title: Evidence for massive and recurrent toxic blooms of Alexandrium catenella in the Alaskan Arctic
Among the organisms that spread into and flourish in Arctic waters with rising temperatures and sea ice loss are toxic algae, a group of harmful algal bloom species that produce potent biotoxins. Alexandrium catenella , a cyst-forming dinoflagellate that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning worldwide, has been a significant threat to human health in southeastern Alaska for centuries. It is known to be transported into Arctic regions in waters transiting northward through the Bering Strait, yet there is little recognition of this organism as a human health concern north of the Strait. Here, we describe an exceptionally large A. catenella benthic cyst bed and hydrographic conditions across the Chukchi Sea that support germination and development of recurrent, locally originating and self-seeding blooms. Two prominent cyst accumulation zones result from deposition promoted by weak circulation. Cyst concentrations are among the highest reported globally for this species, and the cyst bed is at least 6× larger in area than any other. These extraordinary accumulations are attributed to repeated inputs from advected southern blooms and to localized cyst formation and deposition. Over the past two decades, warming has likely increased the magnitude of the germination flux twofold and advanced the timing of cell inoculation more » into the euphotic zone by 20 d. Conditions are also now favorable for bloom development in surface waters. The region is poised to support annually recurrent A. catenella blooms that are massive in scale, posing a significant and worrisome threat to public and ecosystem health in Alaskan Arctic communities where economies are subsistence based. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1733564 1840381 1823002
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10312705
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume:
118
Issue:
41
ISSN:
0027-8424
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Rudi, Knut (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Blooms of many dinoflagellates, including several harmful algal bloom (HAB) species, are seeded and revived through the germination of benthic resting cysts. Temperature is a key determinant of cysts’ germination rate, and temperature–germination rate relationships are therefore fundamental to understanding species’ germling cell production, cyst bed persistence, and resilience to climate warming. This study measured germination by cysts of the HAB dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella using a growing degree-day ( DD ) approach that accounts for the time and intensity of warming above a critical temperature. Time courses of germination at different temperatures were fit to lognormal cumulative distribution functions for the estimation of the median days to germination. As temperature increased, germination times decreased hyperbolically. DD scaling collapsed variability in germination times between temperatures after cysts were oxygenated. A parallel experiment demonstrated stable temperature–rate relationships in cysts collected during different phases of seasonal temperature cycles in situ over three years. DD scaling of the results from prior A. catenella germination studies showed consistent differences between populations across a wide range of temperatures and suggests selective pressure for different germination rates. The DD model provides an elegant approach to quantify and compare the temperature dependency of germination among populations, betweenmore »species, and in response to changing environmental conditions. IMPORTANCE Germination by benthic life history stages is the first step of bloom initiation in many, diverse phytoplankton species. This study outlines a growing degree-day ( DD ) approach for comparing the temperature dependence of germination rates measured in different populations. Germination by cysts of Alexandrium catenella , a harmful algal bloom dinoflagellate that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, is shown to require a defined amount of warming, measured in DD after cysts are aerated. Scaling by DD , the time integral of temperature difference from a critical threshold, enabled direct comparison of rates measured at different temperatures and in different studies.« less
  2. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) present an emerging threat to human and ecosystem health in the Alaskan Arctic. Two HAB toxins are of concern in the region: saxitoxins (STXs), a family of compounds produced by the dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, and domoic acid (DA), produced by multiple species in the diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia. These potent neurotoxins cause paralytic and amnesic shellfish poisoning, respectively, in humans, and can accumulate in marine organisms through food web transfer, causing illness and mortality among a suite of wildlife species. With pronounced warming in the Arctic, along with enhanced transport of cells from southern waters, there is significant potential for more frequent and larger HABs of both types. STXs and DA have been detected in the tissues of a range of marine organisms in the region, many of which are important food resources for local residents. The unique nature of the Alaskan Arctic, including difficult logistical access, lack of response infrastructure, and reliance of coastal populations on the noncommercial acquisition of marine resources for nutritional, cultural, and economic well-being, poses urgent and significant challenges as this region warms and the potential for impacts from HABs expands.
  3. Phytoplankton blooms in the Arctic marginal ice zone (MIZ) can be prolific dimethylsulfide (DMS) producers, thereby influencing regional aerosol formation and cloud radiative forcing. Here we describe the distribution of DMS and its precursor dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) across the Baffin Bay receding ice edge in early summer 2016. Overall, DMS and total DMSP (DMSPt) increased towards warmer waters of Atlantic origin concurrently with more advanced ice-melt and bloom stages. Relatively high DMS and DMSPt (medians of 6.3 and 70 nM, respectively) were observed in the surface layer (0–9 m depth), and very high values (reaching 74 and 524 nM, respectively) at the subsurface biomass maximum (15–30 m depth). Microscopic and pigment analyses indicated that subsurface DMS and DMSPt peaks were associated with Phaeocystis pouchetii, which bloomed in Atlantic-influenced waters and reached unprecedented biomass levels in Baffin Bay. In surface waters, DMS concentrations and DMS:DMSPt ratios were higher in the MIZ (medians of 12 nM and 0.15, respectively) than in fully ice-covered or ice-free conditions, potentially associated with enhanced phytoplanktonic DMSP release and bacterial DMSP cleavage (high dddP:dmdA gene ratios). Mean sea–air DMS fluxes (micromol m–2 d–1) increased from 0.3 in ice-covered waters to 10 in open waters (maximum of 26) owingmore »to concurrent trends in near-surface DMS concentrations and physical drivers of gas exchange. Using remotely sensed sea-ice coverage and a compilation of sea–air DMS flux data, we estimated that the pan-Arctic DMS emission from the MIZ was 5–13 Gg S yr–1. North of 80 oN, DMS emissions might have increased by around 10% yr–1 between 2003 and 2014, likely exceeding open-water emissions in June and July. We conclude that DMS emissions from the MIZ must be taken into account to evaluate plankton-climate feedbacks in the Arctic.« less
  4. Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms (CyanoHABs) commonly increase water column pH to alkaline levels ≥9.2, and to as high as 11. This elevated pH has been suggested to confer a competitive advantage to cyanobacteria such as Microcystis aeruginosa . Yet, there is limited information regarding the restrictive effects bloom-induced pH levels may impose on this cyanobacterium’s competitors. Due to the pH-dependency of biosilicification processes, diatoms (which seasonally both precede and proceed Microcystis blooms in many fresh waters) may be unable to synthesize frustules at these pH levels. We assessed the effects of pH on the ecologically relevant diatom Fragilaria crotonensis in vitro , and on a Lake Erie diatom community in situ . In vitro assays revealed F. crotonensis monocultures exhibited lower growth rates and abundances when cultivated at a starting pH of 9.2 in comparison to pH 7.7. The suppressed growth trends in F. crotonensis were exacerbated when co-cultured with M. aeruginosa at pH conditions and cell densities that simulated a cyanobacteria bloom. Estimates demonstrated a significant decrease in silica (Si) deposition at alkaline pH in both in vitro F. crotonensis cultures and in situ Lake Erie diatom assemblages, after as little as 48 h of alkaline pH-exposure. These observationsmore »indicate elevated pH negatively affected growth rate and diatom silica deposition; in total providing a competitive disadvantage for diatoms. Our observations demonstrate pH likely plays a significant role in bloom succession, creating a potential to prolong summer Microcystis blooms and constrain diatom fall resurgence.« less
  5. Beisner, Beatrix E (Ed.)
    Abstract Planktothrix agardhii dominates the cyanobacterial harmful algal bloom biomass in Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie (USA) from May until September. This filamentous cyanobacterium known parasites including the chytrid fungal species Rhizophydium sp. C02, which was previously isolated from this region. The purpose of our work has been to establish how parasitic interactions affect Planktothrix population dynamics during a bloom event. Samples analyzed from the 2015 to 2019 bloom seasons using quantitative PCR investigate the spatial and temporal prevalence of chytrid infections. Abiotic factors examined in lab include manipulating temperature (17–31°C), conductivity (0.226–1.225 mS/cm) and turbulence. Planktothrix-specific chytrids are present throughout the bloom period and are occasionally at high enough densities to exert parasitic pressure on their hosts. Temperatures above 27.1°C in lab can inhibit chytrid infection, indicating the presence of a possible upper thermal refuge for the host. Data suggest that chytrids can survive conductivity spikes in lab at levels three-fold above Sandusky Bay waters if given sufficient time (7–12 days), whereas increased turbulence in lab severely inhibits chytrid infections, perhaps due to disruption of chemical signaling. Overall, these data provide insights into the environmental conditions that inhibit chytrid infections during Planktothrix-dominated blooms in temperate waters.