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Coastal Ecosystem
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Emerging Harmful Algal Blooms in Coastal Southern California: A Case Study in King Harbor, City of Redondo Beach, CA Website

Principal Investigator(s):
David A. Caron - University of Southern California
Astrid Schnetzer - University of Southern California

Associate Investigator(s):

Period: 2/1/2008 - 1/1/2010

Current Status: Completed Last Updated: 8/18/2010
Federal Funds: State Funds:

The primary goal of this research is to characterize HABs in King Harbor of Redondo Beach, and to conduct experimental and observational measurements to explain the initiation of these blooms, their persistence, and their eventual decline. The overall scientific objective is to acquire predictive understanding of the occurrence of massive algal accumulations in this enclosed basin. The confined circulation of King Harbor, and information on pertinent environmental parameters resulting from a study of this environment by another research program (as noted below) provides a superb study site to accomplish this task. A second, very practical objective is to provide the City Council with information that will enable a more informed decision by Redondo Beach officials regarding measures that might be taken to correct or perhaps prevent future HAB events. Our observational work will characterize the progression of blooms, and establish the major environmental driving forces giving rise to these blooms.

We have initiated a program with the City of Redondo Beach to deploy state-of-the-art sensor packages in King Harbor (temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll fluorescence) through an NSF-based program (Center for Embedded Networked Sensing). That program will provide excellent contextual information on hydrography and water chemistry that will provide a framework for the research proposed here. The CENS sensor network will allow detection of emerging bloom events (typically during Spring through Autumn). This Sea Grant project will support studies during these periods to characterize the environmental conditions promoting HABs. Important HAB taxa will be identified and counted by microscopy or quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) that we and other labs have developed for important HAB-forming taxa. Phytoplankton-derived toxins will be quantified by antibody detection using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Manipulative in-situ experiments will be undertaken to measure the growth rates and mortality rates of important HAB species during bloom initiation, peak bloom conditions and during bloom demise.

We hypothesize that bloom initiation and persistence in King Harbor will be dominated by phytoplankton species that are capable of deterring the grazing activities of protistan and metazoan zooplankton. Description of bloom dynamics and experimental studies of trophic relationships will allow us to gain important insight into the environmental forcing functions and ecological interactions that give rise to harmful algal blooms in King Harbor of the City of Redondo Beach is faced with an environmental issue (HABs and fish kills in the harbor) for which it has little factual information or capability for assessing the cause. Thus there is a weak base of knowledge with which to make decisions vis-à-vis how to proceed with HAB prevention/mitigation. Our research will greatly improve scientific understanding of these blooms, and thus enable the City to make a more informed and educated decision. In particular, identification of the species present in blooms will establish whether the HABs are noxious (e.g. reducing dissolved oxygen concentration) or truly toxic. In addition, we will establish whether these blooms arise from algal growth stimulated within the harbor, or are being advected into or accumulated in the harbor from the coastal ecosystem. We believe that the research program designed and conducted in King Harbor will provide a blueprint or 'template' that other coastal municipalities might employ in developing programs for assessing coastal water quality, and improve our understanding of the causes of HABs in shallow coastal embayments afflicted by harmful algal blooms.



Publications & other print media:
Blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia and domoic acid in the San Pedro Channel and Los Angeles Harbor areas of the Southern California Bight, 2003-2004 - Astrid Schnetzer, Peter E. Miller, Rebecca A. Schaffner, Beth A. Stauffer, Burton H. Jones, Stephen B. Weisberg, Paul M. DiGiacomo, William M. Berelson and David A. Caron

PDF http://www.usc.edu/org/seagrant/Publications/PDFs/AR07_197_214.pdf

River plume patterns and dynamics within the Southern California Bight
Jonathan A. Warrick1, Paul M. DiGiacomo2, Stephen B. Weisberg, Nikolay P. Nezlin, Michael J. Mengel3, Burton H. Jones4, J.Carter Ohlmann5, Libe Washburn5, Eric J. Terrill6 and Katie L. Farnsworth1

PDF http://www.usc.edu/org/seagrant/Publications/PDFs/AR07_215_236.pdf



Video, electronic, and computer products:

Photo4 Photo1
Figure 1: View of King Harbor, City of Redondo Beach (a) and the Marinas within the harbor. A red tide dominated by the dinoflagellate Prorocentrum spp. was documented in King Harbor Marina in May, 2006 (b). Whole sea water during that bloom was strongly colored due to high abundances of dinoflagellates (c). Figure 2: Light microscopical images of several harmful algal species (including some potentially toxic species) in King Harbor during 2006.
Photo2 Photo3
Figure 3. Rapid, massive short-lived blooms during late spring and summer in King Harbor of the City of Redondo Beach in 2006. Table 1: Potentially harmful algal species observed in King Harbor. The potential for toxin production in many of these species (demonstrated in other studies) has been noted. The right-hand column indicates which species have been cultured from King Harbor.