[Coral-List] Cyanobacteria outbreak

Billy Causey billy.causey at noaa.gov
Fri Nov 2 14:07:45 EDT 2012

Thanks for sharing your observations Todd.  There seem to be many physical
parameters that come into play prior to and during a cyanobacteria
outbreak.  It is a symptom of a degraded system....and a foreboding warning
sign.  Take care, Billy

On Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 1:47 PM, Todd Barber <reefball at reefball.com> wrote:

> Reef Ball Foundation regularly uses cyanobacteria outbreaks as a fairly
> reliable indicator of general water quality issues.  Cyanobacteria (as
> described by Billy...but I have observed it in various other colors around
> the world including red, dark green, brownish and even black) is also a
> common problem for Salt Water aquarium owners when they have water quality
> issues.
> We have seen abundant outbreaks off the Mayan Peninsula associated with
> water flowing from underground sources to offshore reefs (the cenote system
> [underground springs]) for example.  And this has increased since farming
> became more intensive with fertilizers.
> Cyanobacteria can become very widespread in just 48 hours (or faster) and
> some aquarium owners have even gone to bed with a clean tank to wake up
> with there entire tanks covered in reddish slime.
> They multiply and spread in matt-like forms, then as they generate O2
> during the day from photosynthesis the bubbles lift parts of the mat and
> the slimy nature allows them to break off into small "air balloons" that
> float around the sea until the air is released and the algae resettles to
> the sea floor and is able to rapidly spread across the seafloor to obtain
> light.
> Cyanobacteria can kill coral by suffocation if the outbreak lasts very
> long although I am not aware it is directly toxic if removed quickly.
> Removal will spread the "infection" by the way if water quality is poor.
> Cyanobacteria disappear fairly rapidly when water quality improves.
> It's possible to get a "false positive" in water quality judgements if a
> fisherperson has cleaned a fish and pitched it over board or around dead
> marine life.  It's not really false, just a spot local source of pollution.
> The SAD thing in using Cyanobacteria as an indicator of water quality is
> that once you have been trained to spot it, you start seeing it everywhere
> and it can ruin your dive experiences!  You have been warned.
> By the way, as a field organization, we often find biological clues that
> are more highly correlated with "true" water quality than what scientists
> report when testing nitrates/ammonia and so forth.  Scientific tests tend
> to be a "point in time" whereas many biological indicators are either
> opportunistic (like Cyanobacteria) or "always monitoring" like coral.
> Might be a great project for someone to look into correlating easy to
> observe biological indicators with specific water quality parameters to
> give more people around the world a way to raise their hand when water
> quality gets worse.
> PS I am NOT a scientist studying Cyanobacteria....this is just field
> observations.
> Thanks,
> Todd R Barber
> Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation
> 609 PORTIA N ST, NOKOMIS, FL 34275
> 941-484-7482 (Direct)
> 941-720-7549 (Cell & Goggle Voice)
> toddbarber Skype
> www,reefball.org (Reef Ball Foundation)
> www.artificialreefs.org (Designed Artificial Reefs)
> www.reefbeach.com (Reefs for Beach Erosion)
> www.eternalreefs.com (Memorial Reefs)
> www.reefball.com (Reef Ball Foundation)
> On Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 11:28 AM, Billy Causey <billy.causey at noaa.gov>wrote:
>> Dear Alberto Acosta,
>> Thank you for posting these observations of Cyanobscteria on
>> Providencia Islands coral reefs.  For years we have discussed the
>> connectivity between the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve and the Gulf of
>> Mexico and the Florida Keys with our friends and colleagues in
>> Week before last, GP Schmahl ( Superintendent of the Flower Garden
>> Banks National Marine Sanctuary); Emma Hickerson (the FGBNMS Science
>> Coordinator) and I were diving the West and East Flower Garden Banks
>> on a Gov/Industry cruise.  We observed what appeared to be mats of
>> Cyanobacteria covering portions of the benthic substrate.
>> I will let GP and Emma chime in here, but what we observed reminded me
>> of a similar outbreak of what appeared to be the same Cyanobacteria
>> (that's not what we called it then.... we simply  called it a
>> blue-green algae outbreak)
>> that occurred in the Florida Keys in 1986. It was a thick may, of
>> purplish algae that grew over everything, even the bare sand bottom.
>> Again, thank you for sharing your observations.  I am going to be on
>> San Andreas week after next and will take a look on the reefs in that
>> area of the archipelago.
>> Best wishes!  Billy Causey
>> Billy D. Causey, Ph.D.
>> Southeast Regional Director
>> NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
>> 33 East Quay Road
>> Key West, Florida 33040
>> Phone:
>> 305 809 4670 office
>> 305 395 0150 mobile
>> 305 293 5011 fax
>> Email:
>> billy.causey at noaa.gov
>> On Nov 2, 2012, at 6:03 AM, Luis Alberto Acosta Moreno
>> <laacosta at javeriana.edu.co> wrote:
>> > Dear Listers
>> > Hello. In a recent expedition where we aimed to evaluate coral reef
>> state
>>  at the Providencia island, Colombian Caribbean, we saw an unusual
>>  cyanobacteria outbreak.
>> > The cyanobacteria fully covered the reef bottom (up to 50 cm high) as
>> well
>>  as the water column of some reef areas at the NW of the island (close to
>>  downtown). Different morphotypes also covered large areas of sand bottom
>> and
>>  seagrass around the island.
>> > I have some videos that I can share if someone is interested to help us
>>  with this environmental problem.
>> >
>> > Best wishes,
>> >
>> > Alberto Acosta
>> > Professor
>> > Biology Department
>> > Pontificia Universidad Javeriana
>> > Colombia
>> >
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Billy D. Causey, Ph.D.
Regional Director
Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
33 East Quay Road
Key West, Florida 33040

Office:  305 809 4670 (ex 234)
Mobile: 305 395 0150
Fax:     305 293 5011
Email:  Billy.Causey at noaa.gov

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