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Cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins

The increasing occurrence of cyanobacteria due to eutrophication and decreasing of inland water quality pose a global concern. The group of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins at IMDEA water focuses their R&D activities to offer technology-based solutions to Water-based industries in relation to CyanoHABs (Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms).

In our research activities, we combine traditional microbiology tools together with modern molecular, chemical and analytical techniques on a holistic approach to tackle the problem of over-growth of cyanobacteria and their toxins.

Currently we are focused on:

  1. Designing monitoring programs for the development of toxic cyanobacteria blooms in reservoirs.
  2. Developing technology for the specific and sensitive detection of microcystins in water.
  3. Developing technology for the efficient and low-cost removal of microcystins during water treatment using biofilms.

Moreover we offer the following services:

  • Cyanotoxin analysis.
  • qPCR analysis for the detection and quantification of potential toxin-producing cyanobacteria.
  • Eutrophication assessment by nutrient analysis.

The group participates in the following research projects:


CIANOALERTSmart alert against harmful cyanobacterial blooms for the water industry

The objective of the CianoAlert project is to develop a real-time intelligent monitoring and alerting system to warn of the development of cyanobacteria blooms in the bodies of water destined for consumption and aquaculture facilities. The solution proposed by CianoAlert, which will allow monitoring of large areas, will combine wireless sensor network technology (sensors placed in the water) with telecommunication technologies and intelligent user interface, and the incorporation of technology controlled aircraft systems (RPAS) as remote sensing devices to obtain information relevant to the degree of affectation and the distribution and density of cyanobacteria for the implementation of a specific and sensitive system in real time, easy to handle and understand.



The scientific leader of the project is Dr. Rehab El-Shehawy, the coordinator is Experis IT and in the project participate Sensing and Control, Grupo Tres Mares y FADA-CATEC. CIANOALERT (RTC-2016-5087-2) is funded by MINECO and FEDER.



CIANOMODDevelopment of a predictive model for the management of algae and cyanobacterial proliferation events associated with climate change based on remote sensing techniques and data acquisition systems (CIANOMOD)

Supported by Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition.

The CianoMOD project is aimed to develop an innovative methodology to address the increasing common issue of harmful algae blooms in freshwater. This methodology combines the use of remote sensing and data acquisition systems based on the IoT (Internet of Things) and BigData technologies. This will allow to elaborate statistical models to analyze the vulnerability of the environments to the blooms occurrence.

The obtained results will be very useful to identify vulnerable areas both in national and international territory being able to contribute, if the blooms are detected and managed well in advance, to minimize the socioeconomic impact on the affected areas.

In addition, the project encourages the direct participation of citizens in a way that helps to raise public awareness of the impacts of climate change and the sustainable use of water resources and the problems from it.

With the support:




Innovation and recycling of membranes for water treatment (INREMEM)

The main objective of the coordinated project INREMEM is to recycle disposed reverse osmosis membranes (RO), at laboratory scale, and to transform them into membranes that will be used in the the treatment of waters from different sources: wastewater, surface water and osmotic solutions. The group leads a work package focused on the biodegradation of microcystins using waste RO membranes. The objective is to develop a bioactive RO membranes from waste products and develop these membranes into membrane bioreactors for the bioremoval of microcystins during water treatment.


More information: http://inremem.simplesite.com/



Scientific & technical offer: Toxic cyanobacteria detection in fresh water reservoirs

Biology and Microbiology Lab