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Agencies collaborate, develop a cyanobacteria assessment network

November 10, 2015

Cyanobacteria are a genetically diverse group of photosynthetic microorganisms that occupy a broad range of habitats on land and water all over the world. They release toxins that can cause lung and skin irritation, alter the taste and odor of potable water, and cause human and animal illness. Cyanobacteria blooms occur worldwide, and climate change may increase the frequency, duration, and extent of these bloom events.

Rapid detection of potentially harmful blooms is essential to protect humans and animals from exposure. Information about potential for exposure, such as bloom duration, frequency, and extent, is especially critical for developing environmental management decisions during periods of limited resources and funding.

The National Research Council (NRC) report Exposure Science in the 21st Century suggested that effectively assessing and mitigating exposures requires techniques for rapid measurement of a stressor, such as an algal bloom, across diverse geographic, temporal, and biologic scales (e.g., various bloom concentrations) and an enhanced infrastructure to address threats [NRC, 2012]. The report specifically calls for approaches that use diverse information, such as satellite remote sensing, to identify and understand exposures that may pose a threat to ecosystems or human health.

A collaborative effort integrates the work of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to provide an approach for using satellite ocean color capabilities in U.S. fresh and brackish water quality management decisions. The overarching goal of this collaborative project is to detect and quantify cyanobacteria blooms using satellite data records in order to support the environmental management and public use of U.S. lakes and reservoirs.

Satellite remote sensing tools may enable policy makers and environmental managers to assess the sustainability of watershed ecosystems and the services they provide, now and in the future. Satellite technology allows us to develop early-warning indicators of cyanobacteria blooms at the local scale while maintaining continuous national coverage.

Publication Year 2015
Title Agencies collaborate, develop a cyanobacteria assessment network
DOI 10.1029/2015EO038809
Authors Blake A. Schaeffer, Keith A. Loftin, Richard P. Stumpf, P. Jeremy Werdell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Eos, Earth and Space Science News
Index ID 70162025
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Kansas Water Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program