Yesterday, scientists from the NOAA-funded Gulf of Maine Toxicity project issued an outlook for a significant regional bloom of a toxic alga that causes 'red tides' in the spring and summer of this year, potentially threatening the New England shellfish industry.
The outlook is based on a seafloor survey of the seed-like cysts of Alexandrium fundyense, an organism that causes harmful algal blooms, sometimes referred to as 'red tides'. Cysts deposited in the fall hatch the following spring; last fall the abundance of cysts in the sediment was 60 percent higher than observed prior to the historic bloom of 2005, indicating that a large bloom is likely in the spring of 2010.
The cyst bed also appears to have expanded to the south, so the 2010 bloom may affect areas such as Massachusetts Bay and Georges Bank sooner than has been the case in past years.
Although the algae in the water pose no direct threat to human beings, toxins produced by Alexandrium can accumulate in filter-feeding organisms such as mussels and clams, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans who consume them. In order to protect public health, shellfish beds are monitored by state agencies and closed when toxin concentrations rise above a quarantine level. There have been no illnesses from legally harvested shellfish in recent years despite some severe blooms.
Scientists are reluctant to make a "forecast" of precisely where and when the 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 Dennis McGillicuddy, a senior scientist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and member of the Gulf of Maine Toxicity project, or GOMTOX. "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."
This year's bloom could be similar to the major blooms of 2005 and 2008, according to Don Anderson, a biologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and principal investigator of the GOMTOX study. The 2005 bloom shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Martha's Vineyard for several months and caused an estimated $20 million in losses to the Massachusetts shellfish industry alone.
Government agencies and researchers believe that the regional-scale, seasonal outlook can be useful in preparing for contingencies. "NOAA's goal is to provide tools to prevent, control, or mitigate the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and their impacts," said David M. Kennedy, acting assistant administrator for NOAA's National Ocean Service. "This advanced warning, along with updates during the season, can help state agencies prepare for monitoring harmful algal blooms and assessing public health risks."
Early warnings can give shellfish farmers and fishermen the opportunity to shift the timing of their harvest or postpone plans for expansion of aquaculture beds. Area restaurants may also benefit from advance warnings by making contingency plans for supplies of seafood during the summer.
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.
"'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 bloom season and the dynamics of the bloom once the season has started, then it gives us an advantage in staging our resources during an otherwise overwhelming environmental and economic crisis."
Ruoying He, associate professor at North Carolina State University and GOMTOX member, 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, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, North Carolina State University, 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, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. 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).
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit: http://www.noaa.gov.
Keeley Belva | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Drug Delivery > Fisheries > Food and Drug Administration > GOMTOX > Gulf of Maine region > Marine science > NOAA > Oceanographic Institution > Pacific Ocean > Woods Hole Oceanographic > algal bloom > environmental risk > harmful algal blooms > health services > oceans > public health > toxicity
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy