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Harm from the benthos: old and new challenges for HAB research and management

March 26, 2014

The recent expansion of Ostreopsis and Gambierdiscus blooms across coastal oceans has turned attention to the benthos and posed new challenges to scientists and managers. Several aspects concerning blooms of benthic microalgae are indeed distinct as compared to planktonic ones, requiring new research approaches, adequate sampling methods and tailored physiological and morphological investigations. Cryptic and pseudo-cryptic diversity has been revealed in both Gambierdiscus and Ostreopsis, in parallel with the recognition of the functional consequences of this diversity.

A specific adaptation to benthic life is the production of mucous, at times in the form of a thick layer, but whether the mucous is also related to mixotrophic nutrition is not clear. Peculiar to Benthic Harmful Algal Blooms (BHABs) are their ways of impact, including relationships with the co-occurring marine fauna. The toxins produced by benthic species can generate a range of impacts encompassing damages to the benthic fauna, fish and shellfish poisoning syndromes and aerosol or seawater-borne human syndromes. Environmental alterations under the pressure of climate variations and ocean acidification could affect the diffusion and impacts of benthic harmful blooms, possibly through changes in local hydrography and their effects on the benthic biota.

Zingone A, in press: Harm from the benthos: old and new challenges for HAB research and management, Proceedings 15th ICHA. Article.

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