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PLoS One. 2013 May 7;8(5):e63569. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063569. Print 2013.

Salinity tolerance of Picochlorum atomus and the use of salinity for contamination control by the freshwater cyanobacterium Pseudanabaena limnetica.

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  • 1School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.


Microalgae are ideal candidates for waste-gas and -water remediation. However, salinity often varies between different sites. A cosmopolitan microalga with large salinity tolerance and consistent biochemical profiles would be ideal for standardised cultivation across various remediation sites. The aims of this study were to determine the effects of salinity on Picochlorum atomus growth, biomass productivity, nutrient uptake and biochemical profiles. To determine if target end-products could be manipulated, the effects of 4-day nutrient limitation were also determined. Culture salinity had no effect on growth, biomass productivity, phosphate, nitrate and total nitrogen uptake at 2, 8, 18, 28 and 36 ppt. 11 ppt, however, initiated a significantly higher total nitrogen uptake. While salinity had only minor effects on biochemical composition, nutrient depletion was a major driver for changes in biomass quality, leading to significant increases in total lipid, fatty acid and carbohydrate quantities. Fatty acid composition was also significantly affected by nutrient depletion, with an increased proportion of saturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Having established that P. atomus is a euryhaline microalga, the effects of culture salinity on the development of the freshwater cyanobacterial contaminant Pseudanabaena limnetica were determined. Salinity at 28 and 36 ppt significantly inhibited establishment of P. limnetica in P. atomus cultures. In conclusion, P. atomus can be deployed for bioremediation at sites with highly variable salinities without effects on end-product potential. Nutrient status critically affected biochemical profiles--an important consideration for end-product development by microalgal industries. 28 and 36 ppt slow the establishment of the freshwater cyanobacterium P. limnetica, allowing for harvest of low contaminant containing biomass.

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