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Algal blooms: Emerging Problems for Health and Sustainable Use of Surface Waters (B-BLOOMS)

Research project EV/34 (Research action ev)

Persons :

Description :


Algal blooms, massive developments of algae and cyanobacteria floating on the surface of waters, have been an increasing phenomenon in the freshwaters of the world over the last decade. These blooms, in particular the ones dominated by cyanobacteria, present potential major risks for human and animal health and interfere negatively with the uses of surface waters (drinking water, recreation, irrigation, pisciculture,).
B-BLOOMS studies this phenomenon in Belgian waters and will make it possible to obtain the scientific data for the establishment of predictive models for the long-term, in order to help authorities take decisions and implement the European directives concerning drinking and bathing waters.

Project description


1) To document the extent, nature (diversity of organisms and toxins) and phenology of toxic blooms in Belgium. This data will be integrated into a database.
2) To contribute to the development of predictive models based on the monitoring of ecological conditions leading to the formation of blooms.
3) To develop the tools (sampling protocols, models, molecular markers) necessary to create a national monitoring network, and to allow the rapid detection and identification of blooms.


1) Monitoring of reference lakes (FUNDP, UGent)
Regular sampling and determination of classical physical and chemical parameters of
the Lac de l’Eau d’Heure (FUNDP) and Blaarmeersen (UGent).

2) Analysis of samples (ULg, FUNDP, UGent)
- Analysis of pigments by HPLC with ‘photodiode array’ and use of the software CHEMTAX (FUNDP, UGent)
- Microscopic observations and construction of a digital image database of the cyanobacterial taxa (ULg, FUNDP, UGent)
- Isolation and cultivation of cyanobacterial strains from blooms (ULg)
- Identification and measurements by assays and HPLC of cyanotoxins (CRITT-Bioindustries, subcontractor ULg)
- Analysis of genotypic diversity of cyanobacteria from blooms (ULg, UGent) on the basis of ribosomal DNA sequences, using DGGE (Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis) and clone libraries
- Analysis of the molecular diversity of cyanotoxin genes and detection by PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) (ULg)

3) Database, network and website (ULg, FUNDP, UGent)
- Creation of a national network of bloom observers and samplers BLOOMNET; ULg, FUNDP, UGent)
- Design and creation of a database using Microsoft ACCESS (BLOOMBASE; FUNDP)
- Design and creation of a website giving access to the data of BLOOMBASE and the information from BLOOMNET (BLOOMWEB)

4) Modeling (BLOOMODEL; FUNDP)
- Construction of an ANN (Artificial Neural Network) model to identify and predict blooms (BLOOMODEL)
- Coupling of BLOOMODEL with watershed models for the Lac de l’Eau d’Heure.

Interactions between different partners

A.1. BLOOMWEB Website: ULg, FUNDP, UGent
A.2. BLOOMINFO Documents: ULg, FUNDP, UGent
A.3. BLOOMNET creation: ULg, FUNDP, UGent
A.4. Workshops: ULg, FUNDP, UGent

B. Monitoring of reference lakes: FUNDP, UGent

C. Screening of Belgian lakes by BLOOMNET: ULg, FUNDP, UGent

After the activities B and C the samples will be analysed (D):
D.1. pigment analyses: FUNDP, UGent
D.2. microscopic observations: ULg, FUNDP, UGent
D.3. isolation and cultivation of cyanobacterial strains: ULg
D.4. cyanotoxin analyses: CRITT, subcontractor ULg
D.5. genotypic diversity of cyanobacteria (rDNA): ULg, UGent
D.6. molecular diversity of cyanotoxin genes: ULg
D.7. reporting to BLOOMNET: ULg, FUNDP, UGent

E and/or G (directly) will follow D:

E.1.creation of the database: FUNDP
E.2.integration of past data: FUNDP, UGent
E.3.integration of data from B-BLOOMS: ULg, FUNDP, UGent

The database will be followed by either F or G:

F. Construction of ANN model - BLOOMODEL
F.1. Construction ANN model: FUNDP
F.2. Coupling with existing models of watersheds for the Lac de l’Eau d’Heure: FUNDP

The activities D, E and F will thus result in G:

G. Communication, dissemination and exploitation of results
G.1. Publications, dissemination of results: ULg, FUNDP, UGent
G.2. Conclusion Workshop: ULg, FUNDP, UGent

Expected results and/or products

The B-BLOOMS project will create a national network and database relating to algal proliferations in freshwaters. These tools will be useful to integrate our country into European research activities (networks and integrated projects) and international studies in which 2 European members of the users’ committee (Dr. Chorus and Prof. Codd) play a major role. A predictive model (of the Neuronal Network type) for blooms will be designed. Moreover, for the implementation of the EC Water Framework Directive, Flanders and Wallonia will have to develop the monitoring of freshwater quality in lakes (including biological parameters like algal blooms) to which the knowledge and tools developed in this project will contribute.



- Coordination.
- Sample analyses: microscopic observations, isolation and purification of cyanobacterial strains from blooms, study of the genotypic diversity of cyanobacteria, study of the molecular diversity of cyanotoxin genes and molecular detection.
- Subcontractor CRITT-Bioindustries: identification and measurements of hepatotoxins and neurotoxins.

- Monitoring of the reference lake (Lac de l’Eau d’Heure).
- Sample analyses: pigment analyses, microscopic observations.
- Construction of BLOOMBASE.
- Design of ANN model (BLOOMODEL).

- Monitoring of the reference lake (Blaarmeersen).
- Sample analyses: pigment analyses, microscopic observations, studies of the genotypic diversity of cyanobacteria.

Contact Information


Annick Wilmotte
Université de Liège (ULg)
Institut de Chimie B6 - Centre d’Ingénierie des Protéines
3, allée de la Chimie
B-4000 Liège
Tel: +32 (0)4 366 38 56
Fax: +32 (0)4 366 33 64


Jean-Pierre Descy
Véronique Gosselain
Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP)
Unité de Recherche de la Biologie des Eaux Douces (UNECED)
61, rue de Bruxelles
B-5000 Namur
Tel: +32 (0)81 72 44 05
Fax: +32 (0)81 23 03 91

Wim Vyverman
Universiteit Gent (UGent)
Sectie Protistologie & Aquatische Ecologie
Krijgslaan 281, S8
B-9000 Gent
Tel: +32 (0)9 264 85 01
Fax: +32 (0)9 264 85 99

Users Committee

Dialogue with a users’ committee including authorities responsible for Belgian and Dutch waters, a local community administration, an environmental NGO, a federation of companies involved in the production of drinking water, as well as 2 European specialists, will maximize the dissemination of the results and the usefulness of our research.

Kirsten Wolfstein - Rijksinstituut voor Integraal Zoetwaterbeheer en Afvalwaterbehandeling - Lelystad, Netherlands
Gaby Verhaegen - Flemish Environment Agency (VMM) - Aalst, Belgium
Wim Van Gils - Bond Beter Leefmilieu (NGO) - Brussels, Belgium
Ingrid Chorus - Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environmental Agency) - Berlin, Germany
K. Allaert - Stad Gent, Dienst Leefmilieu & Natuurontwikkeling - Gentbrugge, Belgium
G. Codd - University of Dundee - Scotland, Great Britain
Dr. Legros - Belgaqua - Brussels, Belgium
Evelyne Flore - Ministère de la Région Wallone, Direction générale des Ressources naturelles et de l'environnement, Division de l'eau, Direction des eaux de surface - Namur, Belgium

Documentation :

Algal blooms: Emerging Problems for Health and Sustainable Use of Surface Waters (B-BLOOMS) : final report  Wilmotte, A . - Descy, J.-P. - Vyverman, W.  Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2008 (SP1903)
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Bibliografic references :

Aantasting van de ozonlaag  Polders Caroline, H. De Backer, and J. Van Laer Milieu- en natuurrapport Vlaanderen, Achtergronddocument 2005, Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij http://www, 2005 

Arctic winter 2005: Implications for stratospheric ozone loss and climate change  Rex Marcus, R. Salawitch, H. Deckelmann, P. von der Gathen, N. Harris, M. Chipperfield, B. Naujokat, E. Reimer, M. Allaart, S. Andersen, R. Bevilacqua, G. Braathen, H. Claude, J. Davis, H. De Backer, H. Dier, V. Dorokov, H. Fast, M. Gerding, S. Godin-Beek Geoph. Res. Lett, submitted  

Ozone profiles in the high-latitude stratosphere and lower mesosphere measured by the improved Limb Atmosphere Spectrometer (ILAS)-II : Comparison with other satellite sensors and ozonesondes  T. Sugita, H. Nakajima, T. Yokota, H. Kanzawa, H. Gernant, A. Herber, P. von der Gathen, G. Koeig-Langlo, K. Sato, V. Dorokhov, V.A. Yushukov, Y. Murayama, M. Yamamori, S. Godin-Beekmann, F. Goutail, H. Roscoe, T. Deshler, M. Yela, P. Taalas, E. Kyrö, S.  J. Geophys. Res., 111 (D11), D11S02, doi:10.1029/2005JD006439, 2006, 2006 

Ozone, Aerosol and UV Observations at KMI-IRM: a Contribution to NDSC and other International atmospheric Research Programmes  De Backer, Hugo, R. Lemoine, A. Cheymol, A. Mangold Geodesy and Geophyisics for the Third Millenium, eds E. Arijs and B. Ducarme, Koninklijke Vlaamse Ac, 2005 

Report of Site visits Round 2004  Gröbner, Julian, S. Kazadzis, J. Schreder, D. Bolsée, C. Brogniez, H. De Backer, A.G. di Sarra, U. Feister, P. Görts, D. Henriques, J. Jaroslawski, S. Simic, M. Stanec, M. Steinmetz, R. Tax, J.M. Villaplane Guerrero European Commision, Joint Research Centre, EUR 21398 EN, 2004 

Retrieval of aerosol optical depth over 20 years at Uccle in Belgium in the UV-B  Cheymol A., H. De Backer, R. Lemoine and A. Delcloo Proceedings, European Aerosol Conference, Ghent, Belgium, 28 Aug - 01 Sept, 2005 

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