Sunday, February 20, 2011

US study predicts prolonged toxic algal outbreaks due to climate change

Xinhua: Climate change could prolong toxic algal outbreaks by 2040 or sooner, posing a health threat to humans, a new study suggests. Using cutting-edge technologies to model future ocean and weather patterns, a team of U.S. researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the University of Washington looked at blooms of Alexandrium catenella, more commonly known as "red tide," which produces saxitoxin, a poison that can accumulate in shellfish.

If consumed by humans, saxitoxin can cause gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms including vomiting and muscle paralysis or even death in extreme cases, the researchers said in the study published Saturday by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Longer harmful algal bloom seasons could translate to more days the shellfish fishery is closed, threatening the vitality of the 108-million-dollar shellfish industry in Washington state, according to the study. The team predicted that places like Washington State's Puget Sound would experience longer seasons of harmful algal bloom outbreaks in the "imminent" future.

"Changes in the harmful algal bloom season appear to be imminent and we expect a significant increase in Puget Sound and similar at- risk environments within 30 years, possibly by the next decade," said Stephanie Moore, Ph.D., with NOAA's West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health….

An algal bloom off the Danish coast, view by NASA satellite

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