Monday, May 31, 2010

Algal blooms hit the poor of India hard

Science Daily: The problem of toxic algae is not just confined to northern countries. In India algal blooms are threatening poor people's access to food and their livelihoods, a problem that has been exacerbated by global warming. With funding from the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, researchers from the University of Gothenburg are to attempt to reduce the effects of algal blooms.

As in many other developing countries near the equator, millions of people in India depend on the sea as a source of income and food. Exports of farmed tiger prawns and other aquatic organisms are an important part of the Indian economy, and mussels and oysters are often the main source of protein for many poor people.

But marine farming in India is beset with problems. When pathogenic bacteria, viruses and toxic algae attack, the farmed prawns are treated with antibiotics, which results in resistance. It is also common for the water in the aquaculture ponds to be treated with environmentally harmful chemicals.

Global warming is predicted to make harmful algal blooms larger and more numerous, as higher temperatures lead to more precipitation and a greater run-off of nutrient salts into the marine environment. The south-west coast of India is particularly exposed in this respect, and it is here that a research project from the University of Gothenburg is to monitor the impact of climate change on algal blooms, with funding from the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning.

The background is that the Indian authorities are investing heavily in developing mussel and oyster farms in the hope that they will be able to increase export revenue and produce an environmentally friendly, protein-rich food for the country's sizeable population. Systematic monitoring that can predict when and where algal blooms will occur is needed if the investment is to pay off….

The Dutch port of Tuticoran in 1752, now the Coromandel Coast in India

No comments: