A comparative study of Alexandrium tamarense cyst distribution in Belfast Lough

Eva Pérez Blanco, Jane Lewis

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Alexandrium tamarense is a cyst-forming dinoflagellate that can cause toxicity in shellfish. Belfast Lough, in northeast Ireland, has experienced toxicity events due to the presence of A. tamarense, which are monitored because of shellfish farms in the Lough. Since 1992 anthropogenic influences on the Lough have changed with the introduction of a ‘fast cat’ ferry service and an increase in mussel farming. In 2002 Belfast Lough was surveyed for A. tamarense cyst distribution in the sediments and the results are compared to a previous cyst survey carried out in the Lough in 1992. Cyst numbers were generally lower in 2002 than in 1992 (t-test, P < 0.01). The highest concentration found in 2002 was 1058 cysts g−1 dry sediment compared with 3330 in 1992. Although sediment disturbance increased in the period between the surveys and plays a role in cyst distribution, A. tamarense cysts are still present in the seabed of the Lough. These cysts remain an important repository of inoculating cells for A. tamarense blooms that have not been removed by the recent anthropogenic activity in the Lough and therefore the requirement for monitoring remains. Comparisons between cyst counts per volume of wet sediment and per weight of dry sediment were carried out, and although the first is needed for ecological studies allowing a deeper analysis, it is also recommended that cyst counts per dry weight of sediment are always reported for wider comparative purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-263
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Phycology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2014


  • Alexandrium tamarense
  • Anthropogenic activity
  • Belfast Lough
  • Cyst concentration
  • Cyst distribution
  • Sediment disturbance


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