Blooms of Karenia Brevis (Davis) G. Hansen & Ø. Moestrup on the West Florida Shelf: Nutrient Sources and Potential Management Strategies Based on a Multi-Year Regional Study

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karenia brevis, management, nitrogen, nutrient sources, phosphorus

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Identification and quantification of the nutrient sources supporting large, extended duration Karenia brevis blooms on the West Florida Shelf (WFS) in the eastern Gulf of Mexico are critical steps for effective bloom management and mitigation. Previous research had identified multiple (> 12) potential nutrient sources available to K. brevis blooms on the WFS, which vary with bloom stage, location, biomass and bloom toxicity. This current study newly identified and quantified additional nitrogen (N) sources including water column nitrification, photochemical nutrient production, pelagic unicell N2 fixation by diazotrophs other than the colonial cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, and remineralization from seasonal Trichodesmium biomass decay and microzooplankton grazing (and estimated regeneration). Newly identified phosphorus (P) sources include remineralization from Trichodesmium biomass decay and microzooplankton grazing. In estuarine environments, benthic nutrient flux, mixotrophic consumption of picoplankton, nutrient release from zooplankton and microzooplankton grazing, photochemical nutrient production, and nitrification all can contribute up to 100% of the N and/or P requirements of small (< 105 cells L−1) K. brevis blooms. During average estuarine flow years, combined estuarine sources contribute up to 17 and 69% of the N and P needs of these blooms, however local estuarine contribution can increase to 100% for exceptional, high flow years. In coastal and offshore environments, regenerated nutrient sources become increasingly important to blooms, with zooplankton excretion, nitrification, decay and regeneration of nutrients from dead fish and pelagic N2 fixation potentially providing 100% of bloom N and P needs. During the largest observed coastal blooms (14.0 × 106 cells L−1) N2 fixation and release and decay of seasonal Trichodesmium bloom biomass were the only sources of N and P that were completely sufficient to support blooms of that magnitude.

Given the complexity of K. brevis bloom dynamics, the multiple available nutrient sources on the WFS and the importance of regenerated N forms in supporting blooms, efforts to reduce potentially controllable nearshore nutrient inputs should be undertaken with the understanding that while they may lead to enhanced coastal water quality, they may not have an immediate impact on the frequency or magnitude of nearshore K. brevis blooms. Additionally, time lags in ecosystem responses or differences in the time scales on which various process operate may require multi-year assessments to determine how effective management practices are in relation to K. brevis blooms. Timely red tide related monitoring products that allow for effective focusing of monitoring needs for short-term prediction of impacts and targeted communication of scientific results to the public and stakeholders, remains the most effective means of K. brevis management.


Complete list of authors: Cynthia A. Heil, L. Kellie Dixon, Emily Hall, Matthew Garrett, Jason M. Lenes, Judith M. O’Neil, Brianne M. Walsh, Deborah A. Bronk, Lynn Killberg-Thoreson, Gary L. Hitchcock, Kevin A. Meyer, Margaret R. Mulholland, Leo Procise, Gary J. Kirkpatrick, John J. Walsh, Robert W. Weisberg

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Harmful Algae, v. 38, p. 127-140