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Brian Lapointe, Ph.D.
The Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) program conducts research on the physiology and ecology of HABs in coastal waters of South Florida, the Caribbean region, and other coral reef regions globally.
Since 1983, the HAB program has conducted pioneering research assessing nutrient linkages between watersheds and algal blooms in coastal waters. This program has compiled a 25-year record of low-level nutrient data at Looe Key in the Florida Keys, the longest record of coral reef water quality anywhere in the world. This long-term monitoring program, aided by research in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Martinique, Bermuda, Belize, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Lucia, Hawaii, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, has established nutrient thresholds or “tipping points” at which coral reef ecosystems shift to alternative states dominated by macroalgae and algal turfs.
The program has also demonstrated the importance of land-based nutrient pollution to outbreaks of invasive, non-native macroalgae, including the chlorophytes Caulerpa brachypus f. parvifolia in southeast Florida and Caulerpa ollivieri in Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas, and the rhodophytes Acanthophora spicifera and Hypnea musciformis in Hawaii. Recent research along Florida’s southwest coast has investigated the role of riverine discharges from the Caloosahatchee River in supporting blooms of red tides (Karenia brevis) and drift macroalgae. Findings of this research have contributed to significant water policy changes in Florida, which include a phosphate ban and advanced wastewater treatment in Monroe County (Florida Keys), termination of the ocean sewage outfalls on coral reefs off southeast Florida, and policies restricting fertilizer use in South Florida.