Tropical cyanobacterial blooms: a review of prevalence, problem taxa, toxins and influencing environmental factors

Submitted: 23 April 2014
Accepted: 30 November 2014
Published: 30 December 2014
Abstract Views: 7460
PDF: 2666
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Toxic cyanobacterial blooms are a major issue in freshwater systems in many countries. The potentially toxic species and their ecological causes are likely to be different in tropical zones from those in temperate water bodies; however, studies on tropical toxic cyanobacterial blooms are sporadic and currently there is no global synthesis. In this review, we examined published information on tropical cyanobacterial bloom occurrence and toxin production to investigate patterns in their growth and distribution. Microcystis was the most frequently occurring bloom genus throughout tropical Asia, Africa and Central America, while Cylindrospermopsis and Anabaena blooms occurred in various locations in tropical Australia, America and Africa. Microcystis blooms were more prevalent during the wet season while Cylindrospermopsis blooms were more prevalent during the dry period. Microcystin was the most encountered toxin throughout the tropics. A meta-analysis of tropical cyanobacterial blooms showed that Microcystis blooms were more associated with higher total nitrogen concentrations, while Cylindrospermopsis blooms were more associated with higher maximum temperatures. Meta-analysis also showed a positive linear relationship between levels of microcystin and N:P (nitrate:phosphate) ratio. Tropical African Microcystis blooms were found to have the lowest microcystin levels in relation to biomass and N:P (nitrate:phosphate) compared to tropical Asian, Australian and American blooms. There was also no significant correlation between microcystin concentration and cell concentration for tropical African blooms as opposed to tropical Asian and American blooms. Our review illustrates that some cyanobacteria and toxins are more prevalent in tropical areas. While some tropical countries have considerable information regarding toxic blooms, others have few or no reported studies. 

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Supporting Agencies

Research Scholarship, National University of Singapore
Maxine A.D. Mowe, National University of Singapore

PhD candidate 

Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore

Simon M. Mitrovic, University of Technology, Sydney
Senior Lecturer, Center for Environmental Sustainability, School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney
Richard P. Lim, University of Technology, Sydney

Associate Professor

Center for Environmental Sustainability, School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney

Ambrose Furey, Cork Institute of Technology

Mass Spectrometry Research Centre (MSRC), Department of Physical Sciences

Darren C.J. Yeo, National University of Singapore

Assistant Professor

Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore

How to Cite

Mowe, Maxine A.D., Simon M. Mitrovic, Richard P. Lim, Ambrose Furey, and Darren C.J. Yeo. 2014. “Tropical Cyanobacterial Blooms: A Review of Prevalence, Problem Taxa, Toxins and Influencing Environmental Factors”. Journal of Limnology 74 (2). https://doi.org/10.4081/jlimnol.2014.1005.

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