|Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can cause harmful conditions for humans as well as marine or terrestrial wildlife. HABs can be characterized as either toxic or non-toxic (nuisance blooms) and by color (red, brown, green) depending on the primary algal group associated with the bloom. The occurrence of HABs can be correlated to many events such as eutrophication, low grazing pressure, temperature/salinity shifts or upwelling, but focusing monitoring efforts on these events to try and predict HABs can be challenging because of the many mechanisms that feed into what causes harmful algae to bloom.
Detection of large HABs isn’t a concern because they’re easy to see and smell so efforts are really geared toward mitigation of these large scale blooms. However, small scale HABs that introduce toxins into the water can be very harmful to animals and the general public and they can be difficult to detect if the proper instrumentation isn’t being used for monitoring. It is critical to be able to detect very low levels of algae as well as measure relative abundances and report on photosynthetic efficiency of the algal standing stock.