DNA tests could help predict, prevent harmful algal blooms

Sep 30, 2008

A paper published in the current issue of the International Journal of Environment and Pollution, explains how a DNA test can be used to detect harmful algal blooms across the globe. The approach outlined could help reduce the economic impact on fisheries, recreational activities, and aquaculture sites, such as salmon and shellfish farms, and pearl oyster farms. It could also help decrease the outbreaks of food poisoning due to contamination of seafood by the toxins some of these algae produce.

Senjie Lin, an Associate Professor of Molecular Ecology in the Department of Marine Sciences, at University of Connecticut, explains that the geographic extent, frequency, intensity, and economic impact of harmful algal blooms have increased dramatically in recent decades throughout the coastlines of the world. It is possible, he suggests, that this increase is partly due to greater awareness and better monitoring technology.

However, factors such as climate change and increasing levels of pollution are more likely to blame for algal bloom occurrences. Ironically, says Lin, aquaculture operations themselves are often the cause of algal blooms because of the large mass of concentrated waste products from cultured animals.

Algae include cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates, diatoms, raphidophytes, haptophytes, and various other species many of which produce potent toxins. Some, however, are hazardous simply because of the unusually high biomass they produce along a coastline, lake, or other body of water. It was recently estimated that annual economic losses due to algal blooms in the USA alone runs to tens of millions of dollars.

"To minimize economic and environmental impacts, an early warning detection system is needed," says Lin. He has reviewed the two molecular biology techniques that are most commonly used to detect harmful algae, with the putatively toxic dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida as a case study.

Lin's paper provides practical information on the technical aspects of using biological markers - DNA or RNA - to detect the algae quickly and easily without the need for highly sophisticated methods or equipment. Crucial to success is the development of a portable device that could be used on board research vessels or fishing vessels equally as well.

Source: Inderscience Publishers

Explore further: Shark's unique trek could help save the species

Related Stories

States agree to cut pollutants behind Lake Erie algae

Jun 12, 2015

Ohio and Michigan have agreed to sharply reduce phosphorus runoff blamed for a rash of harmful algae blooms on Lake Erie that have contaminated drinking water supplies and contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish ...

Ocean 'dead zones' a growing disaster for fish

Apr 09, 2015

Falling ocean oxygen levels due to rising temperatures and influence from human activities such as agrochemical use is an increasingly widespread problem. Considering that the sea floors have taken more than 1,000 years to recover from past eras of low ox ...

Boom or bust in a jelly bloom market

Apr 02, 2015

The earth's climate is changing and extreme weather events are on the rise. Hurricanes are wreaking havoc with more ferocity, summers are getting warmer and winters colder. But what about our oceans? They, too, are warming. ...

Recommended for you

Shark's unique trek could help save the species

44 minutes ago

Her name is Jiffy Lube2, a relatively small shortfin mako shark that, like others of her kind, swims long distances every day in search of prey and comfortable water temperatures.

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Jul 03, 2015

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

The math of shark skin

Jul 03, 2015

"Sharks are almost perfectly evolved animals. We can learn a lot from studying them," says Emory mathematician Alessandro Veneziani.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.