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Heterogeneity of Toxin-Producing Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins in Coastal Watersheds of Southern California

Abstract

Freshwater and marine harmful algal blooms are expanding on a global scale. Recent reports of toxic events have sparked a growing awareness of the importance of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins at the land-sea interface and estuaries in general. A recent survey in the Southern California Bight documented a wealth of cyanobacteria-dominated communities at a variety of locations. To gain further insight into these assemblages, we repeatedly sampled several sites with different proximity and degrees of connectivity to the Pacific Ocean in four coastal watersheds along the coast of southern California. Our findings revealed temporal and spatial heterogeneity in the occurrence of potential toxin-producing cyanobacteria and associated toxins. Multiple toxins were measured in 45% of all samples (and 25% of shellfish examined), including samples testing positive for anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsin, three congeners of microcystins, or the eukaryotic toxin domoic acid. The ecosystems are hydrologically connected to the Pacific Ocean and provide a source of cyanotoxins to marine and estuarine environments. Collectively, potential toxin-producing cyanobacteria were prevalent at all study sites and appeared to persist throughout the year in some locations. These findings indicate a need for implementation of coordinated monitoring programs across the land-sea interface.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Miranda Roethler at SCCWRP for the assistance with figure preparation and the San Diego Regional Waterboard for the sample collection in San Diego County. This is MERHAB publication #213.

Funding

This research was supported by USC Sea Grant NA14OAR4170089 awarded to David A. Caron and Avery O. Tatters and NCCOS Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) grant award to Meredith D.A. Howard, David A. Caron, Avery O. Tatters, and Raphael M. Kudela, and Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) funds from the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.

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Correspondence to Avery O. Tatters.

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Communicated by James L. Pinckney

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Tatters, A.O., Howard, M.D.A., Nagoda, C. et al. Heterogeneity of Toxin-Producing Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins in Coastal Watersheds of Southern California. Estuaries and Coasts 42, 958–975 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-019-00546-w

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-019-00546-w

Keywords

  • Cyanobacteria
  • Cyanotoxins
  • Land-sea interface
  • SPATT