Spatial and Temporal Variability in the Development and Potential Toxicity of Phormidium Biofilms in the Tarn River, France

Abstract

Proliferation of Phormidium biofilms in rivers is becoming a worldwide sanitation problem for humans and animals, due to the ability of these bacteria to produce anatoxins. To better understand the environmental conditions that favor the development of Phormidiumbiofilms and the production of anatoxins, we monitored the formation of these biofilms and their toxins for two years in the Tarn River, biofilms from which are known to have caused the deaths of multiple dogs. As previously observed in New Zealand, Phormidium biofilm development occurred in riffle areas. The coverage of these biofilms at the bottom of the river exhibited strong spatial and temporal variations, but was positively correlated with water temperature and depth. Anatoxin-a was detected in less than 50% of the biofilms. The concentrations of these toxins in the biofilms exhibited high spatiotemporal variability, with the highest concentrations being recorded at the end of the summer period at the upstream sampling sites. These findings suggest that the maturity of the biofilms, combined with the local environmental conditions, have an impact on the production of anatoxin, making risk assessment for these benthic proliferations challenging.

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