Nutrient dynamics and eco-physiology of opportunistic macroalgal blooms in Irish estuaries and coastal bays

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The Sea-MAT project aimed to understand the role of local environmental conditions in the development of green tides in Ireland. In order to achieve this aim, five of the largest macroalgal blooms in Irish estuaries were studied and monitored using novel and innovative methodologies and approaches. The utilisation of molecular tools for the identification of seaweeds revealed the multi-specific composition of Irish green tides, confirmed the presence of the alien species Gracilaria vermiculophylla along Irish coasts, and identified Pylaiella littoralis as the main species producing the golden tide at Killybegs. Remote sensing techniques were used to accurately define the spatial extent of the bloom event in Clonakilty bay. The use of both high-resolution imagery and multispectral photogrammetry acquired from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) was used in the production of classification maps of the Ulva bloom in the Clonakilty estuary. The assessment of the spatial and temporal scales of biomass variability showed a clear seasonal pattern in red and green tides at the estuaries of Clonakilty, Argideen and Tolka, but no seasonality was observed in the golden tide at Killybegs. Regarding green tides, this assessment suggested that the biomass of tubular morphologies (e.g. Ulva compressa and U. prolifera) may be less susceptible to being transported out of the estuary than laminar Ulva (e.g. U. rigida). Furthermore, tubular morphologies appear to be buried at the end of the bloom, favouring the accumulation of organic matter and nutrients in sediments, which could act as a source of nutrient for the subsequent bloom, perpetuating the eutrophication problems. The monitoring of physicochemical parameters of seawater and sediments in areas affected by seaweed tides suggested an important biofiltration capacity of dissolved inorganic nutrients in quantities that can reduce nutrient concentration in surrounding seawaters at medium scales. This monitoring also revealed important differences in environmental conditions between different seaweed tides (i.e. green, golden and red), indicating relevant differences in ecophysiological traits. Moreover, the low organic content found in sediments at Tolka and Clonakilty may make feasible the development of seagrass restoration actions. Preliminary results of tissue N content in seaweeds from the Tolka and Killybegs (>3% N) suggest that seaweed tides are not limited by nutrients since these values were higher than the critical quota (approx. 2%). Thus, other environmental factors (e.g. meteorological or climatological conditions) and biological constraints may play a more important role than previously thought, controlling the potential development of Irish blooms. Various experiments were conducted in order to identify the mechanism(s) determining the seasonal succession observed in Irish green tides between tubular (i.e. U. compressa) and laminar (U. rigida) morphologies and predict the future development of Irish green tides in the context of global warming and eutrophication. The results obtained indicated that the growth of U. rigida was controlled by temperature, while U. compressa was determined by the photoperiod. Thus, considering the scenario of global warming proposed by the IPPC for Irish coastal waters and the expected increase in nutrient loadings, earlier development of the laminar bloom is expected, which could have significant consequences for biomass balance in Irish estuaries and the maximum accumulated biomass during peak bloom. Different recommendations to reduce the impact of seaweed tides and control their development are proposed. These include: the development of an index based on the ecophysiological status of seagrasses or saltmarsh plants to assess the ecological status of estuarine waters; the reduction of nutrient loadings; the harvesting or cultivation of seaweeds, which may help to remove nutrients and biomass from the estuary; and the cultivation or restoration of oyster beds, which might enhance denitrification processes.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Liam Morrison
National University of Ireland

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Below is a selection of the [ 15 ] files attached to this resource : To view the list of all data and information products attached to this resource you will need to view the Full Attachment List

Attachment Name and Download Link
Att 1    Sea-MAT_Liam_Eutro_2018.pdf   (8.31 Mb)
Att 2    SeaMAT_BPSPoster2016_1.pdf   (5.62 Mb)
Att 3    SeaMAT_Sea_Lettuce_Meeting_Jersey_October_2017.pdf   (1.02 Mb)
Att 4    MRI_Bermejo.pdf   (4.96 Mb)
Att 5    MRI_O'Donnell.pdf   (1.04 Mb)
Att 6    Presentacio_n1.pdf   (2.11 Mb)
Att 7    Ricardo_Bemejo_Poster_BPS_Assessing_spatial_and_temporal_scales_of_variation_in_green_tides_Tubular_v__Sheet_like_morphologies.pdf   (2.68 Mb)
Att 8    greentides_article.pdf   (0.92 Mb)
Att 9    Ireland_Green_Tides_PLOS_ONE.pdf   (3.13 Mb)
Att 10    Liam_Morrison_Ryan_Institute_Pres__SeaMAT_Overview_Dec_2016.pdf   (6.75 Mb)

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Author(s)Morrison, L.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationNutrient dynamics and eco-physiology of opportunistic macroalgal blooms in Irish estuaries and coastal bays
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier049c4c94-45be-11e9-8529-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-06-24

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Morrison, L.   "Nutrient dynamics and eco-physiology of opportunistic macroalgal blooms in Irish estuaries and coastal bays". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-06-24)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsMacroalgal Blooms; Environmental conditions; Coastal Monitoring; multispetral imaging using UAV; Biodiversity.
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2015-W-MS-20
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWater Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceOur data will be used in peer review publications and therefore cannot be published by others.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 15
Project Start Date Sunday 1st May 2016 (01-05-2016)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Wednesday 1st June 2016 (01-06-2016)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Thursday 1st November 2018 (01-11-2018)
Published on SAFERWednesday 13th March 2019 (13-03-2019)
Date of Last EditMonday 8th April 2019 at 10:31:22 (08-04-2019)
Datasets or Files Updated On Thursday 28th March 2019 at 17:09:20 (28-03-2019)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Four estuaries in Ireland (Tolka on the east coast ? Irish Sea; Argideen and Clonakilty along the south coast ? Atlantic Ocean; and Killybegs on the north west coast) affected by large macroalgal tides were studied over seven sampling occasions, in order to assess the spatial and temporal patterns of variation in seaweed biomass between June 2016 and August 2017.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

In this section some supplementary information about this resource is outlined. Lineage information helps us to understand why this project was carried out, what policy or research requirements did it fulfil, etc. Lineage is important in understanding the rationale behind the carrying out of a project or the collection of a specific dataset etc. Links to web sites, applications, papers, etc are outlined to provide you with additional information or supplementary reading about the project or dataset

Lineage information about this project or dataset
In Ireland, the presence of extensive mats of macro-algae growing in the intertidal zone often indicates the presence of nutrient over-enrichment. These large blooms of seaweed can cause ecological disturbance, as well as a risk to human amenity and health. In some estuaries and coastal bays, the extent and abundance of these opportunistic macro-algae has contributed towards these areas being classified at moderate or worse ecological status under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). This, in turn, means that management measures to control these blooms were required.
To ensure that the right measures were identified, a better understanding of the local environmental conditions that result in the development of these blooms was required. The relationship between the occurrence of these blooms and their physico-chemical environment needed to be better understood. Key to this was understanding the underlying mechanisms of why blooms of macro-algae in different areas were dominated by different bloom-forming species. The purpose of the Sea-MAT Project was to identify the main environmental factors controlling the development of opportunistic macro-algae species (Ulva spp, Ectocarpus spp) in a selection of estuaries, where extensive blooms are known to occur (i.e. Killybegs, Dublin Bay, Tolka Estuary, Argideen Estuary).
The improved knowledge from this research was aimed at helping to identify more accurately the causes of blooms and therefore, inform catchment management decision-making regarding the most effective nutrient reduction management options (e.g. Investment in urban wastewater infrastructure, and/or increased control of diffuse nutrient inputs from agriculture).
Supplementary Information
This report is published as part of the EPA Research Programme 2014?2020. The programme is financed by the Irish Government. It is administered on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment by the EPA, which has the statutory function of coordinating and promoting environmental research.
The authors would like to acknowledge the members of the project steering committee, namely Robert Wilkes, Karen Roche, Christine Maggs, Claire Young, David Lyons, Nadège Rossi, Sylvain Ballu, Sophie Richier, Bryan Deegan and Serena Keane. In addition, the authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of Ana Mendes, Eoin McGillicuddy, Owen Doherty, Shane Rooney, Paul Naessens, Charlène Linderhof, Andrew Niven, María Galindo Ponce, Claudia Cara, Guillaume Bernard, Gabrille Tragin, Teresa Fernandez, and Nicole Keogh to the Sea-MAT Project.

Scientific articles:
1. Wan AHL, Wilkes RJ, Heesch S, Bermejo R, Johson MP, Morrison L. (2017). Assessment and Characterisation of Ireland's Green Tides (Ulva species). Plos One, e0169049. (IF: 2.766; Q1 in Multidisplinary Sciences -15/64-; 10 citations).
2. Bermejo R, Heesch S, MacMonagle M, O'Donnell M, Daly E, Wilkes RJ, Morrison L. (2019). Spatial and temporal variability of biomass and composition of green tides in Ireland. Harmful Algae. 81: 94 - 105. (IF: 4.138; Q1 in Marine and Freshwater Biology -3/106-; 1 citation).

1. Bermejo, R., Edwards, M., Daly, E., Curley, E., Fenton, O., Heesch, S. and Morrison, L. ?Forty shades of green?red and brown? Understanding large macroalgal blooms in Irish estuaries?, The British Phycological Society Meeting 64th Annual Meeting, Bournemouth, UK (June 2016). Poster.
2. Curley, E., Edwards, M., Bermejo, R., Daly, E., Fenton, O., Heesch, S. and Morrison, L. (2016) "Understanding large macroalgal blooms in Irish estuaries: The Sea-MAT project", Ryan Institute Research Day (December 2016, June 2017). Poster.
3. Bermejo, R., Niven, A., MacMonagail, M., Daly, E., Morrison, L. (2017) ?Assessing spatial and temporal scales of variation in green tides: Tubular vs. Sheet‐like morphologies?, The British Phycological Society Meeting 65th Annual Meeting, Bournemouth, UK (January 2017, June 2017). Poster.
4. O'Donnell, M., Mendes, A., Edwards, M., Curley, E., Morrison, L. and Bermejo, R. (2016) ?Can differences in minimum areas lead to different conclusions? A case study in green algal tides?, The British Phycological Society Meeting 65th Annual Meeting, Bournemouth, UK (January 2017, June 2017). Poster.
5. Curley, E., Bermejo, R. and Morrison, L. (2017). ?The phytotoxicity of MCPA on ?green tide? macroalgal species?. Environ 2017, Athlone Institute of Technology (April 2016). Poster.
6. Morrison, L., Daly, E and Bermejo, R. Ulva in Ireland and Opportunistic Macroalgal Blooms in Irish Estuaries ? The Sea-MAT Project, First International Conference on Sea Lettuce (Ulva spp.) Management, (Jersey, UK, October 2017). (presented by Dr. Robert Wilkes). Oral communication.
7. Bermejo, R. Daly, E. and Morrison, L. Spatial and temporal patterns of variation in Irish green tides. (University of Cadiz, Invited Speaker) (November 2017). Oral communication.
8. Morrison L , Bermejo R, Golden N, Edwards M, Curley E, Fenton O, Heesch S, Daly E, 2018. The Sea-MAT Project: Understanding large macroalgal blooms in Irish estuaries EUTRO 2018. Nyborg, Denmark. Programme and Book of Abstract: 37-38. Oral communication.
9. O'Donnell M, Bermejo R, Heesch S, McMonagle M, Daly E, Morrison L. 2018. Two for the price of one: The study of two green tides in Ireland reveals a temporal succession between at least two Ulva spp. EUTRO 2018. Nyborg, Denmark. Programme and Book of Abstract: 38. Oral communication.
10. Bermejo R, Galindo-Ponce M, Heesch S, O'Donnell M, McMonagle M, Daly E, Morrison L. 2018. Species richness of green tides increases persistence and stability: field and experimental evidences. EUTRO 2018. Nyborg, Denmark. Programme and Book of Abstract: 36-37. Oral communication.
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