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Iron stimulates blooms of toxin-producing algae in open ocean, study finds
Date:11/8/2010

duce carbon emissions, the primary culprit for ocean ecosystem damage worldwide."

In 2007, Silver accompanied Ken Bruland, professor of ocean sciences at UCSC, on a research cruise to study iron chemistry in the Gulf of Alaska. She saw Pseudo-nitschia cells often in samples collected at sea, and analysis of the samples back in the lab showed the presence of the domoic acid toxin. Those findings prompted her to team up with Coale to analyze old samples collected during iron-enrichment experiments conducted in 1995 and 2002. Coale was the principal investigator or chief scientist for these studies.

"We thought the toxin would have broken down, but it was still there," Silver said.

In addition to samples from the two iron-enrichment experiments, the researchers analyzed samples from three natural populations in the North Pacific. The results showed that oceanic waters throughout the Pacific contain Pseudo-nitschia populations associated with the domoic acid neurotoxin.

Silver noted that blooms of Pseudo-nitschia must occur naturally in the open ocean as a result of iron deposited by dust storms, volcanic eruptions, and other airborne sources. "It is a natural phenomenon and likely has been for millions of years," she said. "But those are sporadic occurrences. To do iron enrichment on a large scale could be dangerous because, if it causes blooms of Pseudo-nitschia, the toxin might get into the food chain, as it does in the coastal zone."


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Contact: Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-2495
University of California - Santa Cruz
Source:Eurekalert

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