U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Published in Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science and Research Needs, ed. H. Kenneth Hudnell (Springer, 2008).


Evidence indicates that the incidence of cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (CHABs) is increasing in spatial extent and temporal frequency worldwide. Cyanobacterial blooms produce highly potent toxins and huge, noxious biomasses in surface waters used for recreation, commerce, and as drinking water sources. The Interagency, International Symposium on Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms (ISOC-HAB) characterized the state of the science and identified research needed to address the risks posed by CHABs to human health and ecosystem sustainability. This chapter provides a synopsis of CHAB research needs that were identified by workgroups that addressed charges in major topic areas. The research and infrastructure needed are listed under nine categories: 1) Analytical Methods; 2) CHAB Occurrence; 3) CHAB Causes; 4) Human Health; 5) Ecosystem Sustainability; 6) CHAB Prevention; 7) CHAB Control and Mitigation; 8) Risk Assessment and; 9) Infrastructure. A number of important issues must be addressed to successfully confront the health, ecologic, and economic challenges presented by CHABs. Near-term research goals include the development of field-ready tests to identify and quantify cells and toxins, the production of certified reference standards and bulk toxins, formal assessments of CHAB incidence, improved understanding of toxin effects, therapeutic interventions, ecologically benign means to prevent and control CHABs, supplemental drinking water treatment techniques, and the development of risk assessment and management strategies. Long-term goals include the assimilation of CHAB databases into emerging U.S. and international observing systems, the development of quantitative models to predict CHAB occurrence, effects, and management outcomes, and economic analyses of CAHB costs and management benefits. Accomplishing further infrastructure development and freshwater HAB research is discussed in relationship to the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act and existing HAB research programs. A sound scientific basis, the integration of CHAB infrastructure with that of the marine HAB community, and a systems approach to risk assessment and management will minimize the impact of this growing challenge to society.