Microalgal bloom events can cause major ecosystem disturbances, devastate local marine economies, and endanger public health. Therefore, detecting and monitoring harmful microalgal taxa is essential to ensure effective risk management in waterways used for fisheries, aquaculture, recreational activity, and shipping. To fully understand the current status and future direction of algal bloom distributions, we need to know how populations and ecosystems have changed over time. This baseline knowledge is critical for predicting ecosystem responses to future anthropogenic change and will assist in the future management of coastal ecosystems. We explore a NGS metabarcoding approach to rapidly identify potentially harmful microalgal taxa in 63 historic and modern Australian marine port and ballast tank sediment samples. The results provide a record of past microalgal distribution and important baseline data that can be used to assess the efficacy of shipping guidelines, nutrient pollution mitigation, and predict the impact of climate change. Critically, eDNA surveys of archived sediments were able to detect harmful algal taxa that do not produce microscopic fossils, such as Chattonella, Heterosigma, Karlodinium, and Noctiluca. Our data suggest a potential increase in Australian harmful microalgal taxa over the past 30 years, and confirm ship ballast tanks as key dispersal vectors. These molecular mapping tools will assist in the creation of policies aimed at reducing the global increase and spread of harmful algal taxa and help prevent economic and public-health problems caused by harmful algal blooms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics