Quantification of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the Grand Bay in Jackson County, MS

Author(s): Dampier, J.; Dash, P.; Begonia, M.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are caused by species of tiny plants, phytoplankton. HABs may cause harm through the production of potent chemical toxins or by their accumulated biomass. Impacts include massive fish kills, loss of sales revenue primarily from fisheries and tourism, loss of commercially valuable and culturally vital shellfish resources, illness and death in populations of protected marine species, and threats to human health. Among the many HAB impacts in the northern Gulf of Mexico, those due to coastal blooms of the diatoms genus Pseudo-nitzschia with its associated toxin domoic acid, and the dinoflagellates of the genus Karenia with its associated toxin brevetoxin are of particular concern. This work (a field, laboratory and satellite remote sensing research) focused on quantifying HABs in the Grand Bay. It encompasses the collection of field data which is analyzed in the laboratory for pigments, suspended sediments, dissolved materials, and toxins as well as a satellite remote sensing component focused on developing techniques for mapping HABs from space. Recently, a procedure was developed to estimate cyanobacterial concentrations by quantifying chlorophyll a and the primary cyanobacterial pigment phycocyanin using OCM satellite data. This required the development of an atmospheric correction and vicarious calibration methodology for satellite data in inland and coastal waters. It has been tested to work for data from several satellite sensors such as OCM, SeaWiFS, MODIS, MERIS and QuickBird. This research is focused on use of satellite sensors, NPP VIIRS and MODIS AQUA, and the developed techniques to quantify HABs in the Grand Bay. In addition to algal toxins, the toxicity of environmental pollutants (i.e., heavy metals such as Pb, Cd, etc.) in the water was investigated and the mutual relationships between the heavy metals and HABs will be examined. This research will enhance the current state of knowledge on detection and mapping of the HABs in the Grand Bay and thus support state and coastal community efforts to manage fisheries in the region.

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