Alexandrium catenella and Alexandrium minutum blooms in the Mediterranean Sea: Toward the identification of ecological niches

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Annual recurrent blooms of the toxic dinoflagellates Alexandrium catenella and Alexandrium minutum were detected from 2000 to 2003 in harbours along the Catalan coast. The interrelation study between the occurrence of the blooms and specific external conditions at the study sites demonstrated that different factors are required for the bloom of each Alexandrium species. Concentrations higher than 105 cells l−1 of A. catenella were only detected in Tarragona harbour. These blooms were associated with water surface temperature between 21 and 25 °C and salinities of around 34 psu or higher than 37 psu. A. minutum appeared widely spread along the Catalan coast, though the most intensive and recurrent blooms of this species were observed in Arenys de Mar harbour. Concentrations of millions of cells per litre of A. minutum were associated with water temperatures below 14 °C and salinities of around 34–36 psu. A. minutum cell densities showed a positive significant correlation with NO3 but a negative correlation with NH4. On the other hand, A. catenella blooms dominated when both NO3 and NH4 levels were high. The prevailing inorganic nitrogen form (NO3 vs. NH4) could explain why these two species rarely coincide in the same harbours. Accumulation of cysts in the sediment was found to be an important potential factor for the recurrence of these species. The 4.3 × 103 A. catenella cysts cm−3 of wet sediment in Tarragona harbour and the 3.02 × 103 A. minutum cysts cm−3 of wet sediment in Vilanova harbour were the highest concentrations observed from the cyst study. Confined waters such as harbours play an important role as reservoirs for the accumulation of cysts and vegetative cells, which contributes to the expansion of these dinoflagellates in the region. However, the particular environmental conditions are also decisive factors of bloom intensity.


  • I Bravo
  • M Vila
  • M Masó
  • Rosa Figueroa
  • I Ramilo
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology


  • Alexandrium catenella, Alexandrium minutum, Dinoflagellate cysts, Dinoflagellate blooms, Mediterranean Sea
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-522
JournalHarmful Algae
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch