2022 journal article

Harmful cyanobacterial aerosolization dynamics in the airshed of a eutrophic estuary


By: H. Plaas*, R. Paerl, K. Baumann, C. Karl, K. Popendorf, M. Barnard, N. Chang, N. Curtis ...

author keywords: Water quality; Toxic Cyanobacteria; Air quality; PM2.5; Microcystis; Dolichospermum
Source: Web Of Science
Added: October 3, 2022

In addition to obvious negative effects on water quality in eutrophic aquatic ecosystems, recent work suggests that cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (CHABs) also impact air quality via emissions carrying cyanobacterial cells and cyanotoxins. However, the environmental controls on CHAB-derived aerosol and its potential public health impacts remain largely unknown. Accordingly, the aims of this study were to 1) investigate the occurrence of microcystins (MC) and putatively toxic cyanobacterial communities in particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5), 2) elucidate environmental conditions promoting their aerosolization, and 3) identify associations between CHABs and PM2.5 concentrations in the airshed of the Chowan River-Albemarle Sound, an oligohaline, eutrophic estuary in eastern North Carolina, USA. In summer 2020, during peak CHAB season, continuous PM2.5 samples and interval water samples were collected at two distinctive sites for targeted analyses of cyanobacterial community composition and MC concentration. Supporting air and water quality measurements were made in parallel to contextualize findings and permit statistical analyses of environmental factors driving changes in CHAB-derived aerosol. MC concentrations were low throughout the study, but a CHAB dominated by Dolichospermum occurred from late June to early August. Several aquatic CHAB genera recovered from Chowan River surface water were identified in PM2.5 during multiple time points, including Anabaena, Aphanizomenon, Dolichospermum, Microcystis, and Pseudanabaena. Cyanobacterial enrichment in PM2.5 was indistinctive between subspecies, but at one site during the early bloom, we observed the simultaneous enrichment of several cyanobacterial genera in PM2.5. In association with the CHAB, the median PM2.5 mass concentration increased to 8.97 μg m−3 (IQR = 5.15), significantly above the non-bloom background of 5.35 μg m−3 (IQR = 3.70) (W = 1835, p < 0.001). Results underscore the need for highly resolved temporal measurements to conclusively investigate the role that CHABs play in regional air quality and respiratory health risk.