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Institute for Coastal and Marine Research

Phytoplankton dynamics of Algoa Bay: composition and responses to environmental conditions

Investigators: Eileen Campbell, Tommy Bornman, Wayne Goschen
Collaborating Institutions: Nelson Mandela University Coastal and Marine research Unit; SAEON Elwandle & Egagazini
Email contact: Eileen Campbell


Long-term monitoring research has gathered global momentum when considering loss of biodiversity and climatic changes allowing for multiple scales to be researched. Because phytoplankton forms the basis of coastal food webs and provides an ecosystem service through carbon sequestration, their biomass, diversity and distribution are useful components for long-term monitoring. Using Algoa Bay as a long-term study site provides an opportunity to investigate effects of physical, chemical and anthropogenic drivers on coastal phytoplankton. Seven stations in Algoa Bay, and 10 intertidal stations are sampled on near-monthly time scale. These have developed into the SAEON Elwandle long-term sentinel sites. Knowledge of how climate change might impact on the productivity of the coastal waters here will allow for adaptation and mitigation linked to coastal resources to be grounded in research and management decisions made for the benefit of the environment and the people that inhabit the coastal regions.

Surf diatoms: The Sundays River Beach, South African and global beaches

Investigators: Eileen Campbell, Derek du Preez, Clarisse Odebrecht
Collaborating Institutions: Nelson Mandel University Coastal and Marine research Unit; Institute of Oceanography, Fundação Universidade Federal do Rio Grande; SAEON
Email contact: Eileen Campbell


The co-occurrence of more than two surf diatom species Karioitahe beach of New Zealand is under investigation. Samples were analysed and a new species of Thalassiosira found that will be described.

The diel periodicity of the surf diatom, Asterionellopsis glacialis at Cassino Beach, Rio Grande, Brazil, has been described and compared to Anaulus australis from South Africa. The phytoplankton and microphytobenthos at the Sundays River Beach are monitored monthly together with the physico-chemical conditions.

The phytoplankton of smaller beaches in Algoa have been added to the long-term monitoring grid. A first record of Attheya armata for South Africa formed the highlight, but indicates possible transport by shipping – an undesirable effect of the Ngqura harbour activity.

The relationship between diatoms and dinoflagellates at sandy beach surf-zones is under investigation. Where surf diatoms occur, they are strong competitors, with Anaulus australis particularly so.

The role of groundwater in providing nutrients to inshore ecosystems is studied by monitoring water quality and flow at five wells in the Alexandria dunefield adjacent to the Sundays River Beach.

A new focus on microphytobenthos was initiated and samples were collected from several South African beaches for investigation.

Diatom (Bacillariophyceae) assemblages of the marine littoral zone in regional and global scale in the light of morphological and genetic analyses: phylogenetic, biogeographic and taxonomic implications

Investigators: Thomas Bornman, Andrzej Witkowski, Przemek Dabek
Collaborating Institutions: Nelson Mandela University Coastal and Marine research Unit; University of Szczecin (US), Poland
Email contact: Thomas Bornman


Little phylogenetic work has ever been undertaken on diatom assemblages from the Southern African coastline. Previous studies have indicated that it is essential to study diatom diversity at the molecular level if we are to properly understand the factors that are driving their biogeography and evolution (Trobajo et al. 2009). We will be comparing areas of fast evolving gene regions from species taken from different locations across the western Indian Ocean, South African coasts and the Atlantic Ocean coast, including the Baltic Sea. This will be the beginning of large scale investigations of the morphological and genetic diversity of diatom assemblages from marine littoral zones.

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