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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

A suggested climate service for cyanobacteria blooms in the Baltic Sea – Comparing three monitoring methods

Karlsson, Bengt; Arneborg, Lars; Johansson, Johannes; Linders, Johanna; Liu, Ye; Olofsson, Malin


Dense blooms of filamentous cyanobacteria are recurrent phenomena in the Baltic Sea, with occasional negative effects on the surrounding ecosystem, as well as on tourism, human health, aquaculture, and fisheries. Establishing a climate service is therefore suggested; including multi-method observations of cyanobacteria biomass, biodiversity, and biogeography, in correspondence to biotic and abiotic factors. Three different approaches were compared for determination of spatial and temporal variability and trends of the blooms; 1) microscopy-based long-term data, 2) satellite remote sensing, and 3) phycocyanin fluorescence mounted on a merchant vessel. Firstly, microscopy-based data on cyanobacteria biomass from the period 2000–2020 showed that the toxin producing genus Nodularia and non-toxic Aphanizomenon both had summer means of 15 µg C L⁻¹, while Dolichospermum was less dominant with a mean of 8 µg C L⁻¹. Some years also the Kattegat was affected by cyanobacteria blooms, likely transported here by ocean currents. Secondly, the satellite remote sensing time series for the period 2002–2020 indicated that near surface blooms were most frequent in the Northern Baltic Proper and that near surface blooms have increased in the Bothnian Sea, starting later in the season than in the Baltic Proper. The largest extents (i.e., total area covered) were observed in 2005, 2008, and 2018. Thirdly, phycocyanin fluorescence from a flow through sensor mounted on a merchant vessel was used as a proxy for cyanobacteria biomass and correlated to cyanobacteria biomass estimated by microscopy. However, the satellite remote sensing data on surface accumulations showed little resemblance to the data on cyanobacteria biomass based on water sampling and microscopy, interpreted as an effect of methods. Sensors on satellites mainly detect surface accumulations of cyanobacteria while the microscopy data was based on samples 0–10 m, thereby comprising a larger community. Data from satellite remote sensing of cyanobacteria was correlated to the phycocyanin fluorescence indicating that similar bio-optical properties are observed. Finally, results from a downscaled ocean climate model (NEMONordic) were used to produce future scenarios for temperature and salinity, which directly affects cyanobacteria blooms in the Baltic Sea, supposedly by increasing in abundance and change in species composition. Short-term forecasts can be used together with observations for early warning of cyanobacteria blooms, and we suggest an internationally coordinated cyanobacteria observation and warning system for the Baltic Sea area.


Harmful blooms; Filamentous cyanobacteria; Climate change; Remote sensing; Ferrybox

Published in

Harmful Algae
2022, volume: 118, article number: 102291

Authors' information

Karlsson, Bengt
Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI)
Arneborg, Lars
Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI)
Johansson, Johannes
Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI)
Linders, Johanna
Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI)
Liu, Ye
Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI)
Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG14 Life below water
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Fish and Aquacultural Science

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