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Phytoplankton imaging technology for cell identification of Mississippi coastal waters impacted by cyanobacteria during prolonged opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in 2019
Proceedings of the 2020 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2020 Authors: Boyette A.D.


The primary objective was to use an advanced plankton imaging system (FlowCAM®) to identify and count harmful cyanobacteria (CyanoHAB) and other phytoplankton cells in Mississippi coastal waters in response to prolonged opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway (BCS) in 2019. A weekly sampling protocol was conducted from 16 surface stations in the Mississippi Sound from 09 July to 29 August 2019. Although mixed assemblages of diatoms and dinoflagellates were the predominant phytoplankton groups at all stations throughout the sampling period, CyanoHAB genera Dolichospermum sp. and Microcystis sp. colonies were present at elevated (>150,000 colonies L-1) concentrations in the western and central Mississippi Sound. Additionally, Chlorophytes, which tended to be freshwater genera (e.g. Pediastrum, Actinastrum), were relatively abundant at stations in the Western Mississippi Sound, but absent in the central and eastern portion of the Sound, suggesting influence of Mississippi River water via the Bonnet Carré Spillway. While the data presented here was useful in determining the extent and proliferation of CyanoHABs, it was not used by environmental managers in a regulatory capacity. However, the impact of CyanoHABs during the summer of 2019 was unprecedented in its extent and pervasiveness along coastal Mississippi. Despite the ecological impacts to Mississippi coastal communities, the BCS remains one of the primary flood control systems on the Mississippi River and will continue to be used as flood mitigation. This underscores the need for a long-term phytoplankton monitoring system to serve as an early warning indicator for harmful algal blooms and other eutrophication processes.

2017 MWRRI Annual Report
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