Algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon often produce toxins that pose a danger to marine life and humans.
A new study finds that toxins persist in the lagoon, even in the absence of algae blooms.
Scientists are now trying to identify what produces the toxins, if not excess algae.
Here’s the result, according to Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s paper on the study, published recently in the journal Toxins:
For three years (2018-2021), FAU researchers collected water samples at 20 sites in the lagoon during wet and dry seasons.
They extracted organic molecules from the samples and measured their toxicity to certain types of human cell lines known to be affected by algae toxins and which exhibit unique patterns when exposed to known toxins.
“During flowering, cytotoxicity (the ability to kill or damage cells) due to a single type of toxin was evident from this model,” the study authors wrote. “In the absence of blooms, when cytotoxicity was observed, the pattern looked more like a mixture of toxins or an emerging toxin.”
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Why should I care?
Some algae toxins can cause illness and even death in humans, pets, livestock and wildlife. The same algae that glow when stirred at night can produce saxitoxin, which can accumulate in pufferfish and other marine life, leading to poisoning or even death in people who eat them.
Which FAU found?
Overall, during algal blooms, the northernmost sites in the lagoon had less toxicity than the southern sites, although toxic blooms were observed in both areas.
What about when no algae has bloomed?
In the absence of algae blooms, the most toxic sites were two Banana River sites (including one on the Kennedy Space Center), and four sites in the South Lagoon: South Fork, South Fork 2, North Fork and Middle. ..