Monitoring of Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)

We help protecting the public and combat blooms in cost-effective ways by breaking new ground in the science of detecting blooms before they occur.

Monitoring of Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)
bloom of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) forming toxic surface layers

Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)

Algae are small plankton organisms that live in the sea and freshwater. They are indispensable by generating our oxygen by photosynthesis and form the base of the food web. Sometimes however they get harmful, growing out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds.  Examples are the socalled ‘red tides’ by dinoflagellates, or dense layers of toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) or domoic acid toxin producing blooms of diatoms.

Mitigating the disastrous effects of HABs calls for the early detection and identification of even small amounts of these potentially harmful species, and from the onset: a continuous monitoring of their abundance, growth and biomass dynamics.  This is a great challenge because the algae numbers may explode in a few days, anywhere and spread with the currents. With expert analysis needed on so many points and so frequently, a comprehensive infrastructure is required of expert tools from microscopes to satellite imagery, as much automated as possible . .

What a monitoring infrastructure should provide

  • realtime control of critical processes in surface waters
  • early warning  and calamity control
  • sensitive tracking of onset and decline of species
  • dynamic monitoring of plankton diversity
  • catch sudden and short events
  • facilitate understanding processes by continuous observations
  • in-situ monitoring for data integration and optimal forecasting

example: growth of the cyanobacterium Microcystis in expanding colonies of small cells
example: growth of the cyanobacterium Microcystis in expanding colonies of small cells

The CytoSense flow cytometer is breaking new ground in the science of detecting blooms before they occur.  It offers automation, connecting the microscope to the satellite . . .

The innovative design generates light scattering and fluorescence data rapidly for many individual microscopically small particles and organisms as well as rapid scanning & high resolution imaging of the particles and organisms.

We manufacture CytoSenses for highly automated operation in the laboratory,  and also versions for continuous operation in-situ on a platform, a ship, a buoy, or submerged, measuring directly from a water body with analyses scheduled every few minutes.

It allows you to identify the algae, typically to the genus level and often even to species level, by high resolution images and optical data, and by its high speed and autonomous operation not only abundant phytoplankters are noticed but also the emerging ones, to notice the early onset of a bloom.

by fast analysis of thousands to millions of individuals, emerging species are noticed
by fast analysis of thousands to millions of individuals, emerging species are noticed

Another unique property is the extremely large particle size range it accepts covering everything from the smallest single-cell picoplankton up to large colonies and filaments in an undisturbed way.  This yields three major benefits:

  • to detect and identify and to monitor their growth and biomass production dynamics. 
  • to facilitate reliable analysis and automation by a single instrument, instead of problematic fractionating of samples for analysis by multiple methods and/or instruments 
  • to analyse phytoplankton and zooplankton up to small mesozooplankton, but also all other particles in the water like small coccoliths etc.   Their recorded optical properties provide valuable ‘ground truth’ supporting the integration with satellite imagery.

Example: Colony forming species such as Microcystis aeruginosa is measured directly without destroying the colonies. This shows the contradiction between numbers and biomass . . . the photo shows one of the bigger colonies as recorded.

Various deployment options are possible for HAB monitoring. Ranging from benchtop operation with the bare CytoSense, to moored operation on critical locations with the CytoBuoy.

CytoSense in continuous operation on monitoring platform
CytoSense in continuous operation on monitoring platform

Example case: China Taihu Lake

The Chinese Taihu Basin Authority (TBA) is using a CytoSense installed in their Lake Taihu water quality monitoring field station.   One of the tasks is the automated assessment of the abundance and population dynamics of Microcystis aeruginosa.   The CytoSense is designed to analyze a wide range of cell and colony sizes without damaging fragile phytoplankton structures, with linear assessment of biomass throughout the whole size spectrum.  The configuration used is a benchtop CytoSense with two lasers.

the field monitoring station