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Do toxic cyanobacteria blooms pose a threat to the Baltic ecosystem?

Author(s): Hanna Mazur-Marzec | Marcin Pliński

Journal: Oceanologia
ISSN 0078-3234

Volume: 51;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 293;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: Cyanobacteria | Harmful blooms | Aphanizomenon flos-aquae | Nodularia spumigena | Nodularin | Baltic Sea

Cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae, are oxygenic, photosynthetic prokaryotes. They occur naturally in many fresh, marine and brackish waters worldwide and play an important role in global carbon and nitrogen cycles. In their long history, cyanobacteria have developed structures and mechanisms that enable them to survive and proliferate under different environmental conditions. In the Baltic Sea, the mass development of cyanobacteria is compounded by a high level of eutrophication. The dominant species in the Baltic, the filamentous Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and Nodularia spumigena, can fix dissolved atmospheric N2, as a result of which they can outcompete other phytoplankton organisms. Heterocystous, filamentous cyanobacteria also make a significant contribution to the internal nutrient loading in the Baltic. The blooms of N. spumigena are of particular concern, as this cyanobacterium produces nodularin (NOD), a hepatotoxic peptide. The concentration of the toxin in the sea is regulated mainly by dilution with uncontaminated water, photolysis, sorption to sediments and microbial degradation. The transfer of the toxin in the Baltic trophic chain through zooplankton, mussels, fish and birds has been reported, but biodilution rather than bioconcentration has been observed. Cyanobacterial blooms are thought to pose a serious threat to the ecosystem. Their harmful effects are related to the occurrence of a high biomass, oxygen depletion, a reduction in biodiversity, and the production of toxic metabolites.
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