• Project No 1022
  • Project Name Cyanosurvey: A national update on toxic cyanobacteria and their distribution
  • Lead Organisation SA Water
  • Research Lead AWQC
  • Main Researcher Andrew Humpage
  • Completion Year 2013

Project Description

This research has provided the most comprehensive account of the geographical distribution of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), and the toxins they produce, in Australia. The blue-green algae cells were collected and stored. This collection now forms a valuable national asset which is particularly valuable for managing the complex array of factors that affect the accurate assessment of risk posed by any one algal bloom. Not all cyanobacteria produce toxins, and the identification of species and the presence of toxin is an important step in the decision-making process necessary to produce high quality, safe water. This research led to some notable conclusions; one being that a traditional method that uses cell-shape to identify algal species is unreliable, and also that the number of cyanobacterial cells does not necessarily correlate to the amount of toxin in source waters. Five laboratory tests were reviewed and it was found that tests for cylindrospermopsin were reliable, but tests for microcystin and saxitoxins differed as to the amount they measured, although they reliably identified the presence or absence of toxin. Problem cyanobacteria species are ubiquitous in Australia and if climatic events create favourable conditions, blooms can occur in unexpected locations.