Vertical Migration of Karenia brevis in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico Observed from Glider Measurements

Document Type


Publication Date



Karenia brevis, Harmful algal blooms (HABs), Glider, Remote sensing

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



The toxic marine dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis (the species responsible for most of red tides or harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico), is known to be able to swim vertically to adapt to the light and nutrient environments, nearly all such observations have been made through controlled experiments using cultures. Here, using continuous 3-dimensional measurements by an ocean glider across a K. brevis bloom in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico between 1 and 8 August 2014, we show the vertical migration behavior of K. brevis. Within the bloom where K. brevis concentration is between 100,000 and 1,000,000 cells L−1, the stratified water shows a two-layer system with the depth of pycnocline ranging between 14–20 m and salinity and temperature in the surface layer being < 34.8 and > 28 °C, respectively. The bottom layer shows the salinity of > 36 and temperature of < 26 °C. The low salinity is apparently due to coastal runoff, as the top layer also shows high amount of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM). Within the top layer, chlorophyll-a fluorescence shows clear diel changes in the vertical structure, an indication of K. brevis vertical migration at a mean speed of 0.5–1 m h−1. The upward migration appears to start at sunrise at a depth of 8–10 m, while the downward migration appears to start at sunset (or when surface light approaches 0) at a depth of ∼2 m. These vertical migrations are believed to be a result of the need of K. brevis cells for light and nutrients in a stable, stratified, and CDOM-rich environment.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Harmful Algae, v. 58, p. 59-65