Characterising the drivers of cyanotoxin production to embed into a cyanobacteria risk management framework

Characterising the drivers of cyanotoxin production to embed into a cyanobacteria risk management framework

Several cyanobacteria species are well known for their potential to produce cyanotoxins. However, not all genotypes of known toxin producing species produce cyanotoxins and of these there is significant variation in the spatial and temporal dynamics of toxin production.


The water industry currently relies of observational measurement of the presence of ‘potentially toxic species’, toxin gene and toxin presence to inform management of cyanobacteria blooms in water supply storages. Predictive tools and preventative management are limited by a lack of simple environmental predictors to predict toxin production events. Understanding the drivers for toxin production that inform risk management frameworks would be of great benefit to water supply managers and to inform alternate management options. These tools would enable better responses to bloom events and allowing for the establishment of pre-emptive measures to minimize cyanotoxin production by targeted manipulation of environmental drivers.

There are many potential environmental and ecological drivers (e.g. predation, competition, nutrient ratios, osmotic stress, water temperature) that, solely or via complex interactions, lead to toxin production. There may even be some treatment processes that initiate toxin production. Due to the complexity of factors that may contribute to toxin production, a combination of controlled laboratory experiments and field studies that couple cyanobacteria metabolism information with current water quality monitoring data, microbial signal measurements and environmental physiochemical parameters is needed. This detailed “systems biology” approach will provide an avenue for establishing the environmental covariates that are linked to toxin production. The systems biology approach will provide water supply managers the information needed to identify and pre-empt adverse bloom events from occurring.

Objectives: Identify key cyanobacteria metabolic functions (i.e. organism specific biochemical metabolism events/expressed pathways) and environmental covariates that identify when toxin production is ‘switched on’ in cyanobacteria species and strains that are known toxin producers and quantify their environmental drivers to improve decision frameworks.

For a complete list of project deliverables, benefits, research approaches and funding requirements please download the Project Description form below.

WaterRA Contact

Dr Arash Zamyadi

Amount being sought


Due Date

26th Nov, 2021