Human Health Impacts
The goal of this objective is to investigate the chemicals present during Harmful Algal Blooms in the Indian River Lagoon, as well as how they are produced and whether they are toxic to animals or people.
Toxins produced by HAB events can pose serious threats to human health. For example, a potent saxitoxin, produced by the microalgae Pyrodinium bahamense, was found to cause poisoning in residents that consumed pufferfish and later led to the closure of that fishery in the early 2000’s. Years later, there is still a large knowledge gap regarding the HAB toxins that are present in coastal and estuarine waters and the mechanisms that lead to their production.
The unprecedented “brown tide” in the Northern IRL led to a massive fish kill that was caused by depleted oxygen levels in the water column. It has also been proposed that unidentified toxins may have contributed to the event. Several species of cyanobacteria are associated with brown tide blooms and their ability to produce toxins have not yet been assessed. As HAB events continue to increase, research focused on the identification, production and impact of toxins is vital.