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Content archived on 2024-05-27

Biological control of harmful algal blooms in european coastal waters: role of eutrophication.


Problems to be solved
Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) occur in many European marine waters and have increased in frequency concomitantly with a increased nutrient input from land. HABs have a devastating effect on the ecosystem and/or cause health problems in humans. Species of interest for BIOHAB belong to different taxonomic groups. Various algae belonging to these groups produce substances responsible for e.g. Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning and Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning. Some species are harmful in other ways, e g by creating oxygen deficiency. The success of HABs depends on several biological interactions, which are of a complex nature. The overall objective of BIOHAB is therefore to determine the interplay between (antropogenic) eutrophication and biological control of the losses and gains of HABs. The ultimate goal is to find ways to manage phytoplankton algal blooms in European coastal waters in such a way that harmful species are avoided or at least that their negative effects are minimised. The co-operation involves several European countries, representing distinctly differing regions (the Baltic, the North Sea, coastal zone of Norway, the Mediterranean). Both the Helsinki (HELCOM) and Oslo Paris Commission (OPARCOM) have been established as intergovernmental organisations with as primary task the protection of the marine environments in the Baltic Sea and North Sea. BIOHAB will provide the necessary knowledge on HABs and their control within these commissions.
Scientific objectives and approach
The scientific objectives are
(1) To determine the susceptibility of HABs to biological control such as grazing (copepods, ciliates, hetero- and mixotrophic dinoflagellates) and/or infection (virus, bacteria, parasites) when growing under deficient as compared to sufficient nutrient conditions.
(2) Investigate the release of infochemicals by HABs into the seawater with the aim to avoid grazing and infection.
(3) To examine data sets of the general and unique patterns of growth and decay parameters of HAB-species in various coastal regions.
(4) To develop a generic or species-specific model for the development of HABs and their mitigation.
(5) To obtain and grow HAB species-specific pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites) which could potentially be used to terminate HABs (bio-control). The work plan combines laboratory and field experiments with in site studies, to be carried out in 4 different European seas. This includes the low saline Baltic, the eutrophic N-controlled North Sea, the oligotrophic Norwegian Sea, and the P-limited Mediterranean Sea. HAB species producing toxins and/or other harmful effects are found in many taxonomic classes, e.g. dinoflagellates (Alexandrium spp., G. aureolum, P. minimum), haptophytes (C. polylepis, P. parvum, P. pouchetii) and cyanobacteria (Nodularia spp. Aphanizomenon spp.). The laboratory experiments will be conducted under different nutrient conditions. A variety of growth and toxicity parameters will be monitored using state of the art techniques. For specific cell viability tests protocols will be developed. Finally, the role of pathogens (viruses, bacteria and parasites) and grazers in terminating HABs will be investigated in separate or combined experiments. Species-specific pathogens will be examined for their potential use to terminate HABs.
Expected impacts
BIOHAB will result in sound knowledge of biological factors affecting the gains and losses of key-HAB-species. The obtained information in BIOHAB might provide potential ways of controlling HABs, e.g. in aquaculture sites. Currently there are various initiatives with respect to management of HABs. On a global scale there is GEOHAB (an initiative by IOC, SCOR and ICES) and ECOHAB, a joint effort of the North-American states. Europe is lagging behind in research on harmful marine algae despite the fact that aquaculture and other use of coastal waters in Europe is intensifying and increasing in economic importance. BIOHAB is the result of a recent initiative (EuroHAB Scientific Initiative Harmful algal Blooms in European Marine and Brackish Waters) of the EU. It is imperative that a strong local European scientific basis for coastal water management with respect to harmful algae is built up partly due to BIOHAB. Furthermore, under the 5th Environmental Action Programme coastal zones are subjected to priority actions by the EU (DG XI). Moreover, coastal zones are also subjected to the Demonstration Programme of DG XI on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). Results of BIOHAB are of significance for both EU tasks since BIOHAB addresses one of the key issues of pollutants namely nutrients.

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