Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 18 Issue 02

View Issue TOC
Volume 18, No. 2
Pages 136 - 147

The Global, Complex Phenomena of Harmful Algal Blooms

Patricia M. Glibert Donald M. AndersonPatrick GentienEdna GranéliKevin G. Sellner
First Paragraph

Marine and fresh waters team with life, much of it microscopic, and most of it harmless; in fact, it is this microscopic life on which all aquatic life ultimately depends for food. Microscopic algae also play an important role in regulating atmospheric CO2 by sequestering it during production and transporting it to deeper waters. Yet some of the microscopic “algae” cause problems when they accumulate in sufficient numbers, due either to their production of endogenous toxins, or to their sheer biomass or even their physical shape. These are known as the harmful algae, or, when in sufficient numbers, harmful algal blooms (HABs). These blooms were formerly called “red tides” because many were composed of dinoflagellates containing red pigments that in high densities colored the water red, but blooms may also be green, yellow, or brown, depending on the type of algae present and their pigmentation (Figure 1). As with all blooms, their proliferation results from a combination of physical, chemical, and biological mechanisms and their interactions with other components of the food web that are for the most part poorly understood. Most HABs are dinoflagellates or cyanobacteria, but other classes of algae, including diatoms, have members that may form HABs under some conditions. As stated by J. Ryther and co-workers many years ago, “…there is no necessity to postulate obscure factors which would account for a prodigious growth of dinoflagellates to explain red water. It is necessary only to have conditions favoring the growth and dominance of a moderately large population of a given species, and the proper hydrographic and meteorological conditions to permit the accumulation of organisms at the surface and to effect their future concentrations in localized areas” (Ryther, 1955).

Citation

Glibert, P.M., D.M. Anderson, P. Gentien, E. Granéli, and K.G. Sellner. 2005. The global, complex phenomena of harmful algal blooms. Oceanography 18(2):136–147, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2005.49.