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Researchers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory may have found a new strategy to limit the growth of an algae species called Aureococcus anophagefferens, which at high densities can result in devastating brown tides. Leveraging a genomic approach called metatranscriptomics, the researchers determined that phosphorus management may be important to controlling brown tides.
Aureococcus anophagefferens surfaced off Long Island in 1985, turning estuaries the color of mud, crowding out native seagrass, and poisoning shellfish. The algae flourished, choking a once thriving shellfish industry and detracting from the region's all-important tourism trade. It continues to plague Long Island's Great South Bay and other mid-Atlantic waters.
Scientists - Aureococcus - Coastlines - Activities - Study
Scientists wanted to know how Aureococcus anophagefferens managed to grow so well along coastlines that are heavily impacted by human activities. A 2011 study provided a critical starting point by sequencing this alga's genome—identifying that it had capabilities which allowed it to thrive in anthropogenically modified ecosystems high in organic matter. In a 2014 study, follow-up research uncovered the phytoplankton's survival secret, which lies in its DNA; Aureococcus can make enzymes that break down organic nitrogen and phosphorus when inorganic nutrients run low, allowing it to beat out competing organisms and flourish. The nitrogen and phosphorus Aureococcus needs to bloom often come from storm water run-off and other land-based sources.
Based on the DNA and other research, scientists learned how the genes encoded in the genome turned on and off in response to the supply of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, developing a metatranscriptomic approach to identify the activities of Aureococcus in a mixed community of other algae. Traditionally, researchers track the blooms by counting the cells in the water and measuring water chemistry to see if the algae are limited for nitrogen or phosphorus.
Water - Chemistry - Cells
"You monitor water chemistry and how many cells are there, and that can tell you...
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