Identificationof Common Noxious Cyanobacteria

PartI - Nostocales

ReportNo WSAA 29


June 1991




Thisreport contains the results of a 12 month investigation of the taxonomy ofnoxious blue-green algae (Cyanophyta/Cyanobacteria) in Australian watersupplies, funded by the Urban Water Research Association of Australia.


Thepurpose of the project was to morphologically characterise common noxious ornuisance forms of cyanobacteria in Australian water supplies and to establishcriteria by which they can be recognised and reliably identified by lightmicroscopy. Particular attention was directed to those forms which are able toform water blooms or unsightly surface scums and may impair water quality bythe production of toxins or taste and odour compounds.


Therationale for this project was based on the need to differentiate betweeninoffensive and noxious forms of cyanobacteria for efficient water qualitymanagement. Water supply authorities throughout Australia require a practicalguide to the identification of troublesome cyanobacteria encountered locallyand need to be able to relate them to existing taxa in the publishedliterature. A final report has been prepared in the form of a practicalreference, incorporating descriptions, illustrations, photo-micrographs andidentification keys to assist laboratory personnel involved in phytoplanktonmonitoring.


Cyanobacterialblooms can adversely affect the suitability of water for human consumption,stock watering and recreational use. As there are indications of increasingabundance of these blooms in Australian waters, this issue was seen to be ofnational significance.


Thisreport, representing Part I of the project, provides taxonomic descriptions ofcommonly occurring planktonic and bloom-forming cyanobacteria from the familyNostocaceae (order Nostocales) in South Australia,Victoria, New South Wales andsouth-eastern Queensland. A total of 20 recognised taxa are described from 5genera (Anabaena, Anabaenopsis,Aphanizomemon, Cylindrospermopsis andNodularia) and approximately 200 original illustrations are provided.


Identificationkeys are provided for genera within the family Nostocaceae and to species orsubspecies level within each genus. None of the described taxa are endemic toAustralia and most are considered cosmopolitan. Several taxa of the familyNostocaceae are described for the first time in Australia.


Asecond report (Part II), currently in preparation, will provide taxonomicdescriptions for reported taxa of the families Microcystaceae (orderChroococcales) and Oscillatoriaceae, Phormideaceae and Pseudanabaenaceae (orderOscillatoriales).


Furtherstudy is required to resolve problems in the classification of certaindescribed forms which do not fit the morphological description of existing taxaand to determine whether discernible morphological differences of describedtaxa represent actual genetic differences.


Copiesof the Report are available from WSAA, price $A50. Orders may be placed throughthe Bookshop at or by email to