Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have completed two extensive survey and mapping efforts to better understand why the 2005 New England red tide was so severe and to suggest what might lie ahead. WHOI Senior Scientist Don Anderson and colleagues mapped the distribution of Alexandrium fundyense cysts in seafloor sediments immediately before and after the historic harmful algal bloom of 2005.
The first of these analyses shows unusually large numbers of cysts of Alexandrium fundyense in bottom sediments of the Gulf of Maine in late 2004, compared to previous survey results from 1997. The hardy, seed-like cysts lie dormant in ocean sediments until growing conditions are favorable for a bloom of this toxic alga. A subsequent survey conducted last fall, after the 2005 outbreak, shows slightly fewer cysts in the sediments than there were in 2004, with the abundance and distribution of those cysts giving a hint of what might be in store for 2006.
“This is partially good news since the 2005 cyst distribution shows that the species did not create a new southern seedbed within Massachusetts Bay and southern waters, as we had feared. The cyst abundance we found there may be too low to initiate blooms in the bay proper, although we dont know if there are cysts in harbors or embayments that might lead to localized toxicity," said Anderson, director of the National Office for Marine Biotoxins and Harmful Algal Blooms, based at WHOI. “On the other hand, there are still five times as many cysts off western Maine as there were in 1997 and only slightly less than in 2004, so there is certainly the potential for another regional event.”
Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
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