Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2008-24


Environmental factors contributing to the development and demise of a toxic dinoflagellate (Karlodinium veneficum) bloom in a shallow, eutrophic, lagoonal estuary.




Hall, NS; Litaker, RW; Fensin, E; Adolf, JE; Bowers, HA; Place, AR; Paerl, HW


Estuaries and Coasts
31 ( 2 ) : 402 - 418




A dense bloom of the ichthyotoxic dinoflagellate Karlodinium veneficum was discovered in the Neuse River Estuary, North Carolina, on 19 October 2006 and was associated with four subsequent fish kills. Microscopic, photopigment, DNA, and toxicological techniques confirmed bloom identity and toxicity. High-resolution spatio-temporal data from ship-board and fixed automated sampling stations provided a unique opportunity to investigate the environmental conditions that initiated, maintained, and terminated the K. veneficum bloom. Bloom initiation and growth were favored by high nutrient availability and reduced dispersal during the period of declining riverine discharge after Tropical Storm Ernesto. K. veneficum out-competed other co-occurring dinoflagellates, perhaps because of the production of karlotoxins that are known to act as grazing deterrents and to facilitate mixotrophic feeding. Once the bloom was established, small-scale hydrodynamic processes, coupled with vertical migration, concentrated cells along a frontal convergence to high densities (> 200,000 cells per milliliter). By 26 October 2006, wind mixing and possible nutrient stress disrupted the bloom. Release of cell-bound toxins during the bloom collapse likely accounted for the associated fish kill events where fish were reported as exhibiting typical symptoms of karlotoxin poisoning. The dynamics of this bloom underscore the tight control of harmful algal blooms by meteorological forcing, hydrology, and sediment nutrient input in this shallow lagoonal estuary.

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