Publications by authors named "R Wayne Litaker"

52 Publications

Cyanobacterial bloom phenology in Saginaw Bay from MODIS and a comparative look with western Lake Erie.

Harmful Algae 2021 03 27;103:101999. Epub 2021 Feb 27.

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, MD United States.

Saginaw Bay and western Lake Erie basin (WLEB) are eutrophic catchments in the Laurentian Great Lakes that experience annual, summer-time cyanobacterial blooms. Both basins share many features including similar size, shallow depths, and equivalent-sized watersheds. They are geographically close and both basins derive a preponderance of their nutrient supply from a single river. Despite these similarities, the bloom phenology in each basin is quite different. The blooms in Saginaw Bay occur at the same time and place and at the same moderate severity level each year. The WLEB, in contrast, exhibits far greater interannual variability in the timing, location, and severity of the bloom than Saginaw Bay, consistent with greater and more variable phosphorus inputs. Saginaw Bay has bloom biomass that corresponds to relatively mild blooms in WLEB, and also has equivalent phosphorus loads. This result suggests that if inputs of P into the WLEB were reduced to similarly sized loads as Saginaw Bay the most severe blooms would be abated. Above 500 t P input, which occur in WLEB, blooms increase non-linearly indicating any reduction in P-input at the highest inputs levels currently occurring in the WLEB, would yield disproportionately large reductions in cyanobacterial bloom intensity. As the maximum phosphorus loads in Saginaw Bay lie just below this inflection point, shifts in the Saginaw Bay watershed toward greater agriculture uses and less wetlands may substantially increase the risk of more intense cyanobacterial blooms than presently occur.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2021.101999DOI Listing
March 2021

Investigation of Algal Toxins in a Multispecies Seabird Die-Off in the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

J Wildl Dis 2021 04;57(2):399-407

University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, COASST, 1122 NE Boat Street, Box 355020, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.

Between 2014 and 2017, widespread seabird mortality events were documented annually in the Bering and Chukchi seas, concurrent with dramatic reductions of sea ice, warmer than average ocean temperatures, and rapid shifts in marine ecosystems. Among other changes in the marine environment, harmful algal blooms (HABs) that produce the neurotoxins saxitoxin (STX) and domoic acid (DA) have been identified as a growing concern in this region. Although STX and DA have been documented in Alaska (US) for decades, current projections suggest that the incidence of HABs is likely to increase with climate warming and may pose a threat to marine birds and other wildlife. In 2017, a multispecies die-off consisting of primarily Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and Short-tailed Shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris) occurred in the Bering and Chukchi seas. To evaluate whether algal toxins may have contributed to bird mortality, we tested carcasses collected from multiple locations in western and northern Alaska for STX and DA. We did not detect DA in any samples, but STX was present in 60% of all individuals tested and in 88% of Northern Fulmars. Toxin concentrations in Northern Fulmars were within the range of those reported from other STX-induced bird die-offs, suggesting that STX may have contributed to mortalities. However, direct neurotoxic action by STX could not be confirmed and starvation appeared to be the proximate cause of death among birds examined in this study.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7589/JWD-D-20-00057DOI Listing
April 2021

Effects of substratum and depth on benthic harmful dinoflagellate assemblages.

Sci Rep 2020 07 9;10(1):11251. Epub 2020 Jul 9.

Bachok Marine Research Station, Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Malaya, 16310, Bachok, Kelantan, Malaysia.

Microhabitats influence the distribution and abundance of benthic harmful dinoflagellate (BHAB) species. Currently, much of the information on the relationships between BHABs and microhabitat preferences is based on non-quantitative anecdotal observations, many of which are contradictory. The goal of this study was to better quantify BHAB and microhabitat relationships using a statistically rigorous approach. Between April 2016 to May 2017, a total of 243 artificial substrate samplers were deployed at five locations in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia while simultaneous photo-quadrat surveys were performed to characterize the benthic substrates present at each sampling site. The screen samplers were retrieved 24 h later and the abundances of five BHAB genera, Gambierdiscus, Ostreopsis, Coolia, Amphidinium, and Prorocentrum were determined. Substrate data were then analyzed using a Bray-Curtis dissimilarity matrix to statistically identify distinct microhabitat types. Although BHABs were associated with a variety of biotic and abiotic substrates, the results of this study demonstrated differing degrees of microhabitat preference. Analysis of the survey results using canonical correspondence analysis explained 70.5% (horizontal first axis) and 21.6% (vertical second axis) of the constrained variation in the distribution of various genera among microhabitat types. Prorocentrum and Coolia appear to have the greatest range being broadly distributed among a wide variety of microhabitats. Amphidinium was always found in low abundances and was widely distributed among microhabitats dominated by hard coral, turf algae, sand and silt, and fleshy algae and reached the highest abundances there. Gambierdiscus and Ostreopsis had more restricted distributions. Gambierdiscus were found preferentially associated with turf algae, hard coral and, to a lesser extent, fleshy macroalgae microhabitats. Ostreopsis, almost always more abundant than Gambierdiscus, preferred the same microhabitats as Gambierdiscus and were found in microbial mats as well. With similar habitat preferences Ostreopsis may serve as an indicator organism for the presence of Gambierdiscus. This study provides insight into how BHAB-specific microhabitat preferences can affect toxicity risks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68136-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7347539PMC
July 2020

An extraordinary Karenia mikimotoi "beer tide" in Kachemak Bay Alaska.

Harmful Algae 2020 02 3;92:101706. Epub 2019 Dec 3.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Stressor Detection and Impacts Division, Beaufort Laboratory, Beaufort, NC, 28516, United States.

In autumn of 2013 an immense dinoflagellate bloom developed in Kachemak Bay, AK, USA. Much of the Bay was discolored a dark amber color and raised public concerns as small scale fish kills were reported in a few locations. Light microscopy revealed a monospecific bloom of gymnodinoid dinoflagellates that were previously unknown from the Bay. Gene sequencing of SSU rDNA from cells collected from the bloom confirmed the causative species to be Karenia mikimotoi. This represents the first report of a K. mikimotoi bloom in Alaska. After the bloom organism was confirmed, a K. mikimotoi species-specific qPCR assay was developed and used to assess K. mikimotoi abundances in DNA extracted from phytoplankton samples from Kachemak Bay and Lower Cook Inlet (LCI) obtained over a six-year period. The K. mikimotoi abundances were compared with corresponding time series of environmental variables (water temperature, salinity, water column stability, nutrients, precipitation and wind speed) to assess the factors contributing to the development of the bloom. The results showed early bloom development occurred in August when snow melt reduced salinities and increased water column stability during a period of calm winds. Peak bloom concentrations occurred in late September (10 cell eq. L) even as water temperatures were decreasing. The bloom gradually declined over the winter but persisted until April of 2014. Karenia mikimotoi cells were not detected two years prior or three years following the bloom, suggesting cells were introduced to Kachemak Bay at a time when conditions allowed K. mikimotoi to thrive.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2019.101706DOI Listing
February 2020

Algal toxins in Alaskan seabirds: Evaluating the role of saxitoxin and domoic acid in a large-scale die-off of Common Murres.

Harmful Algae 2020 02 23;92:101730. Epub 2019 Dec 23.

US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK, United States.

Elevated seawater temperatures are linked to the development of harmful algal blooms (HABs), which pose a growing threat to marine birds and other wildlife. During late 2015 and early 2016, a massive die-off of Common Murres (Uria aalge; hereafter, murres) was observed in the Gulf of Alaska coincident with a strong marine heat wave. Previous studies have documented illness and death among seabirds resulting from exposure to the HAB neurotoxins saxitoxin (STX) and domoic acid (DA). Given the unusual mortality event, corresponding warm water anomalies, and recent detection of STX and DA throughout coastal Alaskan waters, HABs were identified as a possible factor of concern. To evaluate whether algal toxins may have contributed to murre deaths, we tested for STX and DA in a suite of tissues obtained from beach-cast murre carcasses associated with the die-off as well as from apparently healthy murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla; hereafter, kittiwakes) sampled in the preceding and following summers. We also tested forage fish and marine invertebrates collected in the Gulf of Alaska in 2015-2017 to evaluate potential sources of HAB toxin exposure for seabirds. Saxitoxin was present in multiple tissue types of both die-off (36.4 %) and healthy (41.7 %) murres and healthy kittiwakes (54.2 %). Among birds, we detected the highest concentrations of STX in liver tissues (range 1.4-10.8 μg 100 g) of die-off murres. Saxitoxin was relatively common in forage fish (20.3 %) and invertebrates (53.8 %). No established toxicity limits currently exist for seabirds, but concentrations of STX in birds and forage fish in our study were lower than values reported from most other bird die-offs in which STX intoxication was causally linked. We detected low concentrations of DA in a single bird sample and in 33.3 % of invertebrates and 4.0 % of forage fish samples. Although these results do not support the hypothesis that acute exposure to STX or DA was a primary factor in the 2015-2016 mortality event, additional information about the sensitivity of murres to these toxins is needed before we can discount their potential role in the die-off. The widespread occurrence of STX in seabirds, forage fish, and invertebrates in the Gulf of Alaska indicates that algal toxins should be considered in future assessments of seabird health, especially given the potential for greater occurrence of HABs in the future.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2019.101730DOI Listing
February 2020
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