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J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2004 Mar-Apr;51(2):169-72.

Controlling harmful algal blooms through clay flocculation.

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Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543 USA.


The potential use of clays to control harmful algal blooms (HABs) has been explored in East Asia, Australia, the United States, and Sweden. In Japan and South Korea, minerals such as montmorillonite, kaolinite, and yellow loess, have already been used in the field effectively, to protect fish mariculture from Cochlodinium spp. and other blooms. Cell removal occurs through the flocculation of algal and mineral particles, leading to the formation of larger aggregates (i.e. marine snow), which rapidly settle and further entrain cells during their descent. In the U.S., several clays and clay-rich sediments have shown high removal abilities (e.g. > 80% cell removal efficiency) against Karenia brevis, Heterosigma akashiwo, Pfiesteria piscicida and Aureococcus anophagefferens. In some cases, the removal ability of certain clays was further enhanced with chemical flocculants, such as polyaluminum chloride (PAC), to increase their adhesiveness. However, cell removal was also affected by bloom concentration, salinity, and mixing. Cell mortality was observed after clay addition, and increased with increasing clay concentration, and prolonged exposure to clays in the settled layer. Mesocosm, field enclosure, and flume experiments were also conducted to address cell removal with increasing scale and flow, water-column impacts, and the possible benthic effects from clay addition. Results from these studies will be presented, especially those in regards to water quality, seawater chemistry, bottom erodibility and faunal impacts in the benthos. At this time, clay dispersal continues to be a promising method for controlling HABs and mitigating their impacts based on existing information and experimental data.

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