PROJECT TITLEECOALFACS: ECOlogical mechanisms controlling (harmful) phytoplankton blooms in ALFACS Bay (Ebro Delta); CTM2009-09581. Planned duration of activity, from : 01/01/2010 to: 31/12/2012­­

CONTACTS: Name and title:  Dr. ELISA BERDALET, Address: Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC), Pg. Marítim de la Barceloneta, 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Catalunya (Spain), Tel/Fax: 34 93 230 9595, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., home page URL: (if applicable) : Other key persons (name, title and institution): Dr. Marta Estrada and Dr. Dolors Blasco, Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC)

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The proliferations of certain microalgae, known as "Harmful Algal Blooms" (HABs) cause world-wide problems with significant ecologic, economic, social and human health consequences and constraint the sustainable development of marine resources. The mechanisms underlying the population dynamics of species causing HABs are complex because they result from the interplay of a spectrum of physico-chemical and biological environmental factors, to which the organisms respond with a variety of strategies. In this project, we aim to provide to provide integrated knowledge on key biological, chemical and physical conditions that favour the proliferation of harmful phytoplankton species in an aquacultural site, the Alfacs Bay of the Ebro Delta (NW Mediterranean). Improved insight on this topic will guide a better understanding of these harmful blooms and a better management of their effects in aquaculture.

Specifically, we aim to investigate in Alfacs Bay:

1) the potential role of dissolved nutrients (including the possible supply through freshwater inout from land and submarine groundwater discharges) and mixotrophy on enhancing proliferation of certain phytoplankton assemblages and/or harmful species;

2) the variability of the in situ growth rates of key (harmful) phytoplankton species along different phases (initiation, maintenance and decay) of blooms;

3) the impact of protozoan micrograzers on the phytoplankton community and specifically on harmful species;

4) the significance of the preferential vertical location of some (harmful) phytoplankton species linked to their migratory behaviour;

5) the role of the circulation patterns in the retention time of the phytoplankton biomass.

The obtained data will be assimilated into NPZD and numerical-physical models, to test hypotheses concerning biological and physico-chemical mechanisms involved in HAB development.

BENEFITS  FROM GEOHAB: It would benefit by raising the visibility of the program and facilitating inter-regional comparison. We welcome people interested in participate in the laboratory experiments and/or field sampling. We specially welcome physicists interested in the physical-biological interactions or estuarine circulation studies and modellers.

FUNDING: Has funding been obtained?  Yes: 100000 euros plus a fellowship for a PhD student. Funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science.



Project title: Integrated study of the coupling between small scaleTURbulence and the ECOphysiology of TOXic dinoflagellates. Planned duration of activity


Start: 1/10/06

End: 30/9/09

Funding Programmes: Spanish Ministry of Education and Science

Budget: 129100 eur


This is a three-year project focussed on the interaction between the small scale turbulence and the biology of toxicogenic dinoflagellates, approached through ecophysiological experimentation and in situ study of the physical and biological dynamics of HABs in the Ebro Delta and the Rías Baixas. The overall objective is to obtain new insight into the interactions between small scale turbulence and the biology of dinoflagellates to understand the underlying mechanisms involved in their sensitivity to turbulence, and how turbulence can modulate the dynamics of (toxic) dinoflagellate populations in situ, in two scenarios, the Galician Rías Baixas and the Ebro Delta, two important shellfish farming site in Spain. Improved knowledge on this topic will guide a better prediction of the harmful blooms and the management of their effect in aquaculture. TURECOTOX is an integrated ecophysiological study that will combine laboratory experiments and in situ studies with a multidisciplinary approach, joining physics, technology and biology, but focussed on several target species (e.g. Dinophysis spp., Gymnodinium catenatum, Alexandrium minutum, Gyrodinium corsicum) whose bloom dynamics have relevant effects on the socio-economic interests in coastal European waters. TURECOTOX will combine long term field sampling and experimentation in the laboratory to: 1) obtain a yearly record of small scale hydrodynamic properties with a Doppler profiler at particular stations of the Rías Baixas and the Ebro Delta. 2) obtain empirical relationships between small scale turbulence and the population dynamics (abundance, viability, toxicity, division rates, cell cycle phases) of toxic dinoflagellates in the Rías Baixas (Dinophysis spp. and Gymnodinium catenatum) and in the Ebro Delta (Alexandrium minutum, Gyrodinium corsicum). 3) implement new methodologies to estimate turbulence parameters from Doppler profiler and to compare the obtained results with estimates obtained with a microstructure probe. 4) implement new methodologies to estimate the viability, apoptosis and/or cell death in in natural samples and in laboratory cultures exposed to turbulent regime. 5) apply new techniques (microtubule probes, differential genic expression) with the aim  to obtain new insights on the understanding of the species-specific cell mechanisms underlying the interaction between the turbulence and the biology of the dinoflagellates, including toxin production. 6) synthesize results and disseminate the information and technology


Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC), Barcelona, Spain: E. Berdalet, M. Estrada, G. Llaveria, M. L. Artigas, L. Arin, J. Solé

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain: R. Quesada

Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Vigo, Spain: S. González-Gil, B. Reguera, L. Velo-Suárez

Contact: Elisa Berdalet at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Project title: Harmful Algal Bloom Species in Thin Layers
Acronym: HABIT
Start: 6/1/2005
End: 5/31/2008
Funding Programmes: SUSTDEV-2004-3.III.4.4 Harmful algal blooms in European marine and brackish waters Specific Targeted Research Project
Budget: 949932 eur
The project HABIT researches the development and dispersion of HAB populations in sub-surface micro-layers. It focuses on a genus of phytoplankton that has a serious impact on the economic development of the European coastal zone and which frequently occurs in sub-surface, thin micro-layers. The overall objectives of HABIT are to resolve fundamental patterns in the occurrences of Dinophysis and quantify the processes that are important in governing their distribution. To this end, the project HABIT will i) investigate the maintenance and persistence of high density thin layers through studying interactions between fine scale physical diffusion and net growth and trophic relationships within them; ii) investigate the precise role of small scale structures on the coastal shelf as incubators for accumulations of Dinophysis; and iii) utilise physical models to examine the formation and persistence of gyres on the shelf, to predict their transport, and as a consequence HAB events at the coast. A high-resolution vertical profiler will be utilised in tandem with a moored profiling system currently in use in the US for studying HAB species occurrences. Thin layers of Dinophysis will be identified. Small-scale physical processes (vertical and horizontal diffusion) will be measured, and related to net growth. Results will allow an overview of the balance between dispersion and accumulation in the layers and the time-scale of their persistence. Retention zones and other small-scale structures on the coastal shelf will be investigated as incubators for thin layers of HABs using quality physical models to model and predict the formation, persistence and movement of these structures. In this way, potential incubator sites will be shown to depend on the hydrodynamic regime of the coastal ocean. The origins of HAB events will be identified and essential information given to managers, as the only mitigation action possible for naturally occurring events lies in their prediction.
Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer'
Instituto Espanol de Oceanografía
Martin Ryan Institute
National University Of Ireland - Galway
The Secretary Of State For Environment Food And Rural Affairs Acting Through The Centre For Environment Fisheries And Aquaculture Science
Robin Raine at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.