18 December 2017

NMU’s Center for Coastal and Marine Research have added the bbe Moldaenke PhycoProbe to their armoury of bbe chlorophyll measuring instrumentation.  The just-released PhycoProbe adds the ability to measure unbound phycocyanin, in addition to Total Chlorophyll and that from the individual groups of cyanobacteria, green algae, diatoms and cryptophytes.  The ability to measure unbound phycocyanin provides a proxy indication of cell leakage and the possible release of algal toxins into the aquatic environment.  This technology is now also incorporated in other bbe instruments such as the PhycoSens.

Prof Renzo Perissinotto (right) and Dr Gavin Rishworth (left) with their new bbe PhycoProbe.

The bbe FluoroProbe (and more recently, the bbe BenthoTorch) has been an integral part of Professor Renzo Perissinotto’s research team for the past decade and a half.  Recent projects within Prof. Perissinotto’s Shallow Water Ecosystem (SWE) SARChI Chair have focussed on three sectors, in addition to many other subsidiary projects: (1) seasonal long-term monitoring of the dynamics of Lake St. Lucia, the largest estuarine lake system in southern Africa, (2) biological community responses and baseline monitoring of proposed hydraulic fracturing of shale gas sites in the Karoo, and (3) ecosystem drivers of living peritidal stromatolites growing along the South African coastline.  In all of these ecosystems the data from the bbe Moldaenke units have provided valuable insight into ecological dynamics.

       The bbe PhycoProbe

St Lucia has experienced multi-year cycles of drought and flood conditions, shifting community dynamics according to salinity states, of which the bbe Moldaenke tools were able to track these conditions.  In the Karoo, benthic microalgal community conditions were monitored at ephemeral water bodies to gather baseline data on ecological conditions prior to shale gas exploration or “fracking” operations, in order to have a pre-impact measure of ecosystem state.  In the recently-discovered stromatolites (these are living analogues of ancient microbial and microalgal ecosystems that represented the oldest known forms of life of Earth) along the South African coastline, both the FluoroProbe and BenthoTorch were used to determine how the interacting dynamics between benthic and pelagic microalgal coupling contribute towards forming these unique ecosystems.

In the future the Shallow Water Ecosystem team will deploy its new PhycoProbe to expand its understanding of these ecosystems, especially with regards to cyanobacterial bloom formation under different nutrient/eutrophic conditions.  Coastal eutrophication is on the increase in modern environments and these in situ microalgal monitoring tools represent a valuable asset towards understand the biological effects of these events.  The SWE team is also expanding towards monitoring other estuarine ecosystems in South Africa where these conditions might precipitate.

Below is a list of some of the most-recent publications that have stemmed from work done using bbe Moldaenke tools:

bbe Moldaenke GmbH is represented in South Africa by DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd.


Gordon, N, Perissinotto, R, & Miranda, NAF (2016) Microalgal dynamics in a shallow estuarine lake: Transition from drought to wet conditions. Limnologica – Ecology and Management of Inland Waters 60: 20-30.

Perissinotto, R, Stretch, DD, & Taylor, RH (2013) Ecology and Conservation of Estuarine Ecosystems. In Ecology and Conservation of Estuarine Ecosystems: Lake St Lucia as a Global Model. Stretch, DD, Perissinotto, R, & Taylor, RH (eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rishworth, GM, van Elden, S, Perissinotto, R, Miranda, NAF, Steyn, P-P, & Bornman, TG (2016) Environmental influences on living marine stromatolites: insights from benthic microalgal communities. Environmental Microbiology 18: 503-513.

Rishworth, GM, Perissinotto, R, Miranda, NAF, Bornman, TG, & Steyn, PP (2017) Phytoplankton community dynamics within peritidal pools associated with living stromatolites at the freshwater-marine interface. Aquatic Sciences 79: 357-370.

Roussouw N, Bird MS, Perissinotto R, Gordon N (In press). Microalgal biomass and composition of surface waterbodies in a semi-arid region earmarked for shale gas exploration (Eastern Cape Karoo, South Africa). Limnologica.

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