The major activities of the CRP on Fjords and Coastal Embayments include:

  • a first Open Science Meeting (OSM), held in 2004 in Chile, which helped identify the key questions regarding harmful algal blooms in fjords and coastal embayments;
  • a GEOHAB report on the outcome of this first OSM, published in May 2010; Download the research plan here!
  • the formation of a subcommittee in charge of this CRP (Nov. 2010);
  • a second OSM was held in Victoria B.C. Canada on 29-31 May 2012:

GEOHAB Open Science Meeting


Progress in interpreting Life History and Growth Dynamics of Harmful Algal Blooms in Fjords and Coastal Environments


Organizers: Allan Cembella, Leonardo Guzmán, Marina Montresor, Vera Pospelova and Suzanne Roy (Local Organizing Committee = Suzanne Roy and Vera Pospelova)

Date: 29-30 May 2012

Location: University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

The GEOHAB Core Research Project (CRP) on HABs in Fjords and Coastal Embayments organized an Open Science Meeting to review and update research on the role of life history and growth dynamics in the control of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in coastal environments and to identify key objectives for future international studies.


During the first Open Science Meeting of this CRP, held in 2004 in Chile, seven research priorities were identified to further our understanding of HAB dynamics in fjords and coastal embayments. Since then, significant progress has been made in evaluating these processes and mechanisms involved in HAB dynamics, notably with respect to genetic diversity, life history of key harmful species, allelochemical and toxic interactions affecting HAB populations, and the importance of coastal morphology, hydrodynamics and associated physical retention or dispersion of cells within the coastal zone. Examples of this recent progress include predictions of blooms based upon extrapolation from cyst mapping in the Gulf of Maine, identification of putative allelochemicals and the role of toxins in chemical defense against predators and competitors, detection of cryptic diversity in many key species, challenging our identification capabilities but also opening a new perspective on the complex structure of HAB populations, and understanding how stratification contains blooms in northern Monterey Bay at the same time that bay circulation advects the bloom to new locations.

The OSM focused on four themes: (a) Life history of HAB species; (b) Allelochemical interactions; (c) Genetic diversity and (d) Transport and mixing of blooms in small-scale, mesoscale and semi-confined systems.

Outcomes of this OSM are three-fold: (1) an Open Science Meeting with plenary speakers and open to other participants, giving rise to a GEOHAB Meeting Report with synthesis, conclusions, and future research perspectives to be published shortly after; (2) the production of several mini-reviews on the above themes to be incorporated in a Special Issue of an international journal along with the CRP on Stratified Systems; and (3) identification of key research areas where future international collaboration in comparative studies could lead to substantial advances in our understanding of HABs in coastal environments. 

Format of the meeting

It was a two-day meeting, with a combination of plenary talks, poster sessions and discussion periods. Plenary speakers were asked to arrive at the meeting with a written summary of their talk ready to be incorporated into the Meeting Report by the end of the meeting. A discussion period followed each Session and there were time for Poster Sessions on the half-day’s themes in late morning or afternoon of each day.


AM - Session 1: Review of Past Programs on HABs that have included Life Cycle Approaches (EC-SEED [E. Garces], US ECOHAB and GOMTOX) [D. Anderson]

PM – Session 2: Allelochemical and Toxic Interactions: Effects on Bloom Phases and Growth Dynamics of HABs in Small-Scale Coastal Systems [A. Cembella]

PM – Session 3: Transport and Mixing – the Role of Water Motion in HAB dynamics [D. Lucas and J. Largier]


AM - Session 4: Genetic Diversity and Population Heterogeneity: Relevance to HABs in Small-Scale Systems [M. Montresor] 

AM - Session 5: Harmful Algal Blooms in Tropical Embayments affected by Monssons [R.V. Azanza]

PM – Session 7: Identify key research areas where international collaboration and a comparative perspective will clearly advance understanding on HABs in small-scale coastal systems. Identify the means to develop these international collaborations.

PM – Session 8: Closed meeting of the organizing committee to prepare the report

Target participants

Researchers and graduate students/post-docs interested in HAB research in coastal environments, particularly in small-scale and/or semi-enclosed systems.


The meeting was held at the University of Victoria, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.


The Core Research Plan:

 Download the research plan here!

The Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (GEOHAB) programme was initiated in 1999 by the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO to develop a research programme on the ecological and oceanographic mechanisms underlying the population dynamics of harmful algal blooms (HABs). The end goal of this programme is to allow the development of observation systems and models that will enable prediction of HABs, thereby reducing their impacts on the health of humans and marine organisms, as well as their economic and social impacts on societies. The GEOHAB Implementation Plan (GEOHAB, 2003) specifies the formation of Core Research Projects (CRPs) related to four ecosystem types—upwelling systems, fjords and coastal embayments, eutrophied systems, and stratified systems. This report summarizes the Open Science Meeting (OSM) held in April 2004 and provides the proceedings, progress and synthesis of research efforts on the study of HABs in fjords and other coastal embayments. At this OSM, participants had the opportunity to present and discuss research findings in a variety of coastal embayments and to begin the development of a research agenda for coordinated studies. The meeting served to identify interested participants and research regions and to bring together the international community to design core research. Meeting participants discussed a wide variety of research topics related to HABs in these coastal systems, which the Core Research Committee distilled into seven key questions: 

– Are there definable adaptive strategies that characterize HAB species in confined and semi-confined systems?

– What is the importance of life history transitions and cyst distribution in bloom initiation and maintenance — endogenous seed beds versusexogenous introduction?

– How do physical dispersion and aggregation processes within a semi-confined basin affect HAB growth and distribution? 

– What is the relative contribution of nutrient flux and supply ratios to HAB dynamics in eutrophic versus non-eutrophic coastal embayments?

What is the importance of spatial scale and retention time in the expression and effects of allelochemicals/toxins in semi-confined systems?


– How do embayment morphology, bathymetry and hydrodynamic flux affect HAB dynamics?

– Are the effects of anthropogenic activities (e.g. aquaculture) and global climate change on HAB dynamics magnified in enclosed and semi-enclosed embayments?

Our understanding of and ability to predict HABs in coastal embayments over the next 5-10 years will reflect the extent to which this GEOHAB CRP can answer these questions. The practical implementation of Core Research activities in coastal embayments has advanced since field work was initiated in 2005.