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Rapid assessment of algal community composition and harmful blooms using DNA barcoding and Next Generation Sequencing

Outbreaks of harmful algal blooms (HABs) dominated by toxigenic and nuisance cyanobacteria are increasingly reported across freshwater systems with adverse effects on the health and resilience of aquatic food-webs and many negative socioeconomic impacts. Timely detection and identification of bloom-forming and toxigenic algal and cyanobacterial species is essential to predict, manage, and reduce their frequency, severity, and toxicity. This is particularly challenging in large waterbodies such the Great Lakes which may exhibit a gradient in water quality and plankton composition. We applied DNA barcoding and Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to develop a rapid assessment toolset for two important indicators of aquatic ecosystem health: toxigenic bloom-forming cyanobacteria and impaired planktonic biodiversity. We first developed a reference Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) database from algal and cyanobacterial isolates from the Great Lakes and other freshwater bodies around the world. We then tested NGS method with specific 16S primers to simultaneously detect cyanobacteria and eukaryotic algal chloroplasts on mock communities generated from known cyanobacterial and eukaryotic strains, and thirdly analyzed environmental samples from Lake Erie. To date, we have sequenced and uploaded to the BOLD database, a total of 146 strains of cyanobacteria and algae for 16S rDNA. By using mock community experiments we were able to validate and optimize our method and results showed accurate identification of species. As a whole, the newly developed NGS pipeline allows reproducible detection of cyanobacteria and eukaryotic algae in environmental samples which can be used for monitoring of Cyanobacterial and Harmful Algal Blooms.

L. Cynthia Watson (Primary Presenter/Author), Watershed Hydrology and Ecology Research Division, Water Science and Technology, Environment and Climate Change Canada,;

Natalia V. Ivanova ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding, none ;

Sue B. Watson ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), NOAA - Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, stillnone ;

George S Bullerjahn ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Bowling Green State University, superlate;