Marine scientists attending an international workshop warned that the future may bring more harmful algal blooms (HABs) that threaten wildlife and the economy, and called for changes in research priorities to better forecast these long-term trends.
(From Science Daily) — The findings of the international workshop on HABs and climate Change were published in the journal Harmful Algae. The workshop was organized under the auspices of the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) and the Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (GEOHAB) and endorsed by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The central findings were that while there are reasons to expect HABs to increase with climate change, poor scientific understanding seriously limits forecasts, and current research strategies will not likely improve this capacity.
Empirical observations suggest cause for grave concern. Northward expansion of phytoplankton species, wider seasonal windows for HAB development, and an increasing prevalence of HABs worldwide all indicate a future with greater problems.
The impacts of algal blooms are extensive. Although phytoplankton blooms normally fuel productive ecosystems, some blooms create very low oxygen concentrations in bottom waters, killing or driving out marine fish or benthic organisms. Others produce potent neurotoxins that threaten ecosystems and human health.
Evidence suggests that these destructive blooms, called red tides in the past but more properly “harmful” algal blooms, are increasing in frequency and severity, possibly from human causes. “There is growing concern among scientists that climate change may exacerbate this trend,” said Prof. Mark Wells, University of Maine and organizer of the workshop. “We are frustrated by the inadequate national research focus to determine the likelihood of these worst-case scenarios.”
Read the full article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151026132146.htm