Characterisation of algal organic matter produced by bloom-forming marine and freshwater algae

L.O. Villacorte, Y. Ekowati, T.R. Neu, J.M. Kleijn, H. Winters, G.L. Amy, J.C. Schippers, M.D. Kennedy
Water Research, volume 73, pp. 216-230, (2015)

Characterisation of algal organic matter produced by bloom-forming marine and freshwater algae

Keywords

Dinoflagellates, Diatoms, Cyanobacteria, Fluorescence excitation emission matrix (FEEM), Lectin staining coupled with confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), Atomic force microscopy

Abstract

​Algal blooms can seriously affect the operation of water treatment processes including low pressure (micro- and ultra-filtration) and high pressure (nanofiltration and reverse osmosis) membranes mainly due to accumulation of algal-derived organic matter (AOM). In this study, the different components of AOM extracted from three common species of bloom-forming algae (Alexandrium tamarense, Chaetoceros affinis and Microcystis sp.) were characterised employing various analytical techniques, such as liquid chromatography – organic carbon detection, fluorescence spectroscopy, fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, alcian blue staining and lectin staining coupled with laser scanning microscopy to indentify its composition and force measurement using atomic force microscopy to measure its stickiness. Batch culture monitoring of the three algal species illustrated varying characteristics in terms of growth pattern, cell concentration and AOM release. The AOM produced by the three algal species comprised mainly biopolymers (e.g., polysaccharides and proteins) but some refractory compounds (e.g., humic-like substances) and other low molecular weight acid and neutral compounds were also found. Biopolymers containing fucose and sulphated functional groups were found in all AOM samples while the presence of other functional groups varied between different species. A large majority (>80%) of the acidic polysaccharide components (in terms of transparent exopolymer particles) were found in the colloidal size range (<0.4 μm). The relative stickiness of AOM substantially varied between algal species and that the cohesion between AOM-coated surfaces was much stronger than the adhesion of AOM on AOM-free surfaces. Overall, the composition as well as the physico-chemical characteristics (e.g., stickiness) of AOM will likely dictate the severity of fouling in membrane systems during algal blooms.

Code

DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2015.01.028

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