Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers issue outlook for a significant New England 'red tide' in 2010

25.02.2010
Seed population portends a large regional bloom; impacts will depend on ocean conditions and weather

Today, scientists from the NOAA-funded Gulf of Maine Toxicity (GOMTOX) project issued an outlook for a significant regional bloom of a toxic alga that can cause 'red tides' in the spring and summer of this year, potentially threatening the New England shellfish industry.

An abundant seed population in bottom sediments has set the stage for a significant bloom of the toxic alga Alexandrium fundyense. This organism swims in the water, and divides again and again to form a "bloom" or red tide, but it also produces dormant cells or cysts that fall to the ocean bottom at the end of these blooms.

A cyst survey conducted in late 2009 shows the highest amount of cysts the team has ever measured, more than 60 percent higher than what was observed prior to the historic red tide of 2005. The cyst bed also appears to have expanded to the south, and thus the 2010 bloom may affect areas such as Massachusetts Bay and Georges Bank sooner than has been the case in past years.

This year's bloom could be similar to the major red tides of 2005 and 2008, according to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) biologist Don Anderson, principal investigator of the GOMTOX study. The 2005 bloom shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Martha's Vineyard (Mass.) for several months and caused an estimated $20 million in losses to the Massachusetts shellfish industry alone. The 2008 outbreak was similar in scale.

Although the algae in the water pose no direct threat to human beings, the toxins they produce can accumulate in filter-feeding organisms such as mussels and clams— which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans who consume them.

In order to protect public health, shellfish beds are closed when toxicities rise above a quarantine level—often during the peak harvesting season. Due to effective monitoring by state agencies, there have been no illnesses from legally harvested shellfish in recent years—despite some severe blooms during that time period. There have been, however, several severe poisonings of individuals who ignored closure signs.

WHOI oceanographers Dennis McGillicuddy and Anderson, and North Carolina State University (NCSU) Prof. Ruoying He are several years along in the development of a computer model to predict the intensity and location of blooms of the toxic algae Alexandrium fundyense in the Gulf of Maine. The model is initiated from the cyst abundance maps, and simulates Alexandrium germination, growth and dispersal using each year's winds, sunlight, rainfall, tides, and currents.

Scientists are reluctant to make a "forecast" of precisely where and when the regional bloom will make landfall because bloom transport depends on weather events that cannot be predicted months in advance.

"Our research has shown that cyst abundance in the fall is an indicator of the magnitude of the bloom in the following year," said GOMTOX member McGillicuddy. "However, even if there is a large bloom offshore, certain wind patterns and ocean currents in the late spring and summer are needed to transport it onshore where it can affect coastal shellfish."

Coastal exposure to the blooms is worst for scenarios in which the spring and summer weather is dominated by strong northeast winds, which tend to drive Alexandrium cells toward the New England coast. That occurred last year (2009), when an unusual series of northeast winds in late June and early July led to closure of almost the entire Maine coast to shellfishing. In contrast, when southwesterlies dominate, the algae tend to stay offshore.

GOMTOX researchers regularly share their field observations and models with more than 80 coastal resource and fisheries managers in six states as well as federal entities like NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Managers believe that a regional-scale, seasonal outlook can be useful in preparing for contingencies. This advanced warning, along with updates closer to and during the red tide season, can help state agencies prepare for monitoring red tides and assessing public health risks, and also give shellfish farmers and fishermen the opportunity to shift the timing of their harvest or postpone plans for seeding of aquaculture beds. Area restaurants may also benefit from advance warnings by making contingency plans for seafood supplies during the summer.

"Red tide is a chronic problem in the Gulf of Maine, and states have limited resources to handle it," said Darcie Couture, director of Biotoxin Monitoring for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. "When we get this information about the potential severity of a red tide season, and the dynamics of the bloom once the season has started, it gives us an advantage in staging our resources during an otherwise overwhelming environmental and economic crisis."

Ruoying He, representing scientists from the GOMTOX project, will present data and models on the projected bloom at the 2010 Ocean Sciences Meeting today in Portland, Ore.

The GOMTOX project, funded by NOAA's ECOHAB Program, is a collaboration of investigators from NOAA, WHOI, NCSU, University of Maine, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Rutgers University, the Food and Drug Administration, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Maine Department of Marine Resources, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and the North Atlantic Clam Association. Other support for Alexandrium studies in the Gulf of Maine is provided by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation through the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans' role in the changing global environment.

WHOI Media Relations | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.whoi.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Species may appear deceptively resilient to climate change
24.11.2017 | University of California - Davis

nachricht Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>