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An in-depth study of Chrysochromulina leadbeateri bloom in northern Norway during spring 2019

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Bente Edvardsen, Luka Supraha, Sandra Gran-Stadniczeñko, Wenche Eikrem, Uwe John


The toxic algal bloom of the haptophyte Chrysochromulina leadbeateri in spring 2019 was the largest bloom of this species in Norwegian waters and worldwide ever recorded. Starting in the Vestfjorden area in northern Norway during early May and expanding north to Balsfjorden and Tromsø area, the bloom caused a major mortality of farmed salmon, with over 13 000 tonns of fish reported as lost during the outbreak. The C. leadbeateri bloom in northern Norway was studied in-depth in frame of a research cruise led by Alfred Wegener Institute (Germany) and in collaboration with the University of Oslo. The cruise focused on studies of phytoplankton diversity, distribution and functional ecology in several fjord systems along the northern Norwegian coast (Lofoten-Vesterålen area, Balsfjorden, Lyngen, Porsangerfjorden, Laksefjorden, Tanafjorden). Biological and environmental data collected during the cruise allowed for detailed analyses of the blooming organism, its distribution patterns in northern Norway, and its ecology. Cultures of C. leadbeateri isolated from the bloom were used to determine the morphology, taxonomic identity, and phylogenetic placement of the organism, and to compare it with a C. leadbeateri strain isolated from the previous major bloom in 1991. Metabarcoding data, light microscopy counts and flow cytometry data were used to map the distribution and abundance of the species along the coast of northern Norway, and correlate its distribution with biotic and abiotic parameters. Preliminary results show that the blooming organism is genetically identical in marker genes to the strain from the bloom in Vestfjorden in 1991. However, both strains and C. leadbeateri in field material exhibit significant intraspecific genetic variability. Biogeographic mapping shows that the bloom was most pronounced in the Balsfjorden area, with maximum cell concentration of over 27 million cells L-1. From an ecological perspective, C. leadbeateri abundance showed positive correlation with phosphate and nitrate, negative correlation with salinity and a slightly positive correlation with temperature. The results of our work provide a unique, in-depth insight into C. leadbeateri blooms, which may help in the monitoring, modelling and predicting similar events in the future. Ongoing work in our group focus on physiological and genetic profiling of the isolated C. leadbeateri strains with the aim to improve our understanding of factors triggering toxicity and bloom formation.