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Algal toxins

January 1, 1999

Periodic blooms of algae, including true algae, dinoflagellates, and cyanobacteria or blue-green algae have been reported in marine and freshwater bodies throughout the world. Although many blooms are merely an aesthetic nuisance, some species of algae produce toxins that kill fish, shellfish, humans, livestock and wildlife. Pigmented blooms of toxinproducing marine algae are often referred to as “red tides” (Fig. 36.1). Proliferations of freshwater toxin-producing cyanobacteria are simply called “cyanobacterial blooms” or “toxic algal blooms.” Cyanobacterial blooms initially appear green and may later turn blue, sometimes forming a “scum” in the water (Fig. 36.2).

Although algal blooms historically have been considered a natural phenomenon, the frequency of occurrence of harmful algae appears to have increased in recent years. Agricultural runoff and other pollutants of freshwater and marine wetlands and water bodies have resulted in increased nutrient loading of phosphorus and nitrogen, thus providing conditions favorable to the growth of potentially toxic algae. The detrimental impact of red tides and cyanobacterial blooms on wetland, shore, and pelagic species has long been suspected but not often been substantiated because information on the effects of these toxins in fish and wildlife species is lacking and diagnostic tools are limited.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1999
Title Algal toxins
Authors Lynn H. Creekmore
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Information and Technology Report
Index ID 70196556
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center