The potential for an outbreak of the phenomenon called "red tide" is expected to be moderately large this spring and summer, according to researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and North Carolina State University (NCSU).
The finding is based in part on a regional seafloor survey of quantities of Alexandrium fundyense--the microscopic algae notorious for producing a toxin that accumulates in clams, mussels and other shellfish and that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans who consume them.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NOAA and the National Institutes of Health.
"These studies of Alexandrium, supported by NSF for more than a decade, have resulted in a near-predictive capability for red tides in this region," said David Garrison, director of NSF's Biological Oceanography Program. "Basic research that transitions into products important in management decisions showcases successful interagency partnerships like this one."
Survey maps of the harmful algae are used with computer models that simulate different scenarios of weather and oceanographic conditions to indicate where and in what abundance the toxic algae might be expected in 2009.
The researchers found concentrations of Alexandrium cysts--the dormant seed-like stage of the algae's life cycle--in the Gulf of Maine to be 40 percent lower than the historically high levels observed prior to last year's bloom, but still higher than the level preceding a major regional bloom in spring 2006 that closed shellfish beds from Canada to Massachusetts Bay.
Fall concentrations of Alexandrium cysts are one of the indicators of the magnitude of a potential bloom in spring.
In October 2008, a survey team led by Don Anderson, a biologist at WHOI and principal investigator of the Gulf of Maine Toxicity (GOMTOX) study, spent 10 days collecting seafloor sediment samples between Massachu
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation