Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Toxicol. 2006 Jun;21(3):278-88.

Application of the WHO alert level framework to cyanobacterial monitoring of Lake Champlain, Vermont.

Author information

Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, 3 College St., Burlington, Vermont 05401, USA.


The increasing incidence of toxic cyanobacteria blooms worldwide has created a need for practical and efficient monitoring in order to protect public health. We developed a monitoring and alert framework based on World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and applied it on Lake Champlain during the summers of 2002-2004. The protocol began with collection of net samples of phytoplankton in order to maximize the chance of finding potential toxin-producing cyanobacteria. Samples were collected lake-wide in partnership with ongoing monitoring efforts, but because open water sample sites did not capture conditions along the shoreline, we added near-shore and shoreline stations in problem areas. Samples were examined qualitatively until potential toxin-producing taxa were found. Then quantitative analyses began, using a rapid screening method to estimate cell density based on colony size. A final cell density of 4000 cells/mL triggered toxin analyses. Primary analysis was for microcystins using ELISA methods. Cell densities, locations of colonies, and toxin concentrations were reported weekly to public health officials. We found that screening for potential toxin-producing cyanobacteria and then measuring toxin concentrations when cell densities reached critical levels worked well to identify problem locations. Although the WHO recommends using chlorophyll a concentration, it was not a good indicator of problem densities of potential toxin-producing cyanobacteria. Our cell density screening method missed no developing blooms but produced less precise density estimates at high cell counts. Overall, our framework appears to provide an efficient and effective method for monitoring cyanotoxin risks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center