Aerosol Emissions from Great Lakes Harmful Algal Blooms

Abstract from a recent paper by May et al. in ES&T:

In freshwater lakes, harmful algal blooms (HABs) of Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) produce toxins that impact human health. However, little is known about the lake spray aerosol (LSA) produced from wave-breaking in freshwater HABs. In this study, LSA were produced in the laboratory from freshwater samples collected from Lake Michigan and Lake Erie during HAB and nonbloom conditions. The incorporation of biological material within the individual HAB-influenced LSA particles was examined by single-particle mass spectrometry, scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and fluorescence microscopy. Freshwater with higher blue-green algae content produced higher number fractions of individual LSA particles that contained biological material, showing that organic molecules of biological origin are incorporated in LSA from HABs. The number fraction of individual LSA particles containing biological material also increased with particle diameter (greater than 0.5 μm), a size dependence that is consistent with previous studies of sea spray aerosol impacted by phytoplankton blooms. Similar to sea spray aerosol, organic carbon markers were most frequently observed in individual LSA particles less than 0.5 μm in diameter. Understanding the transfer of biological material from freshwater to the atmosphere via LSA is crucial for determining health and climate effects of HABs.


Nathaniel W. May, Nicole E. Olson, Mark Panas, Jessica L. Axson, Peter S. Tirella, Rachel M. Kirpes, Rebecca L. Craig, Matthew J. Gunsch, Swarup China, Alexander Laskin, Andrew P. Ault, and Kerri A. Pratt Environmental Science & Technology 2018 52 (2), 397-405 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03609

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