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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Global warming making oceans more toxic – toxic algae already increasing

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April 24, 2017  Stony Brook University  full ScienceDaily article here

Climate change is predicted to cause a series of maladies for world oceans including heating up, acidification, and the loss of oxygen. A newly published study demonstrates that one ocean consequence of climate change that has already occurred is the spread and intensification of toxic algae.
Their study demonstrates that since 1982, broad stretches of these ocean basins have warmed and become significantly more hospitable to these algae and that new ‘blooms’ of these algae have become common in these same regions. Alexandrium and Dinophysis are serious health concerns as they make neurotoxins and gastrointestinal toxins that can cause paralytic and diarrhetic shellfish poisoning in humans.

…”The distribution, frequency and intensity of these events have increased across the globe and this study links this expansion to ocean warming in some regions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans,” Gobler said.

A fundamental question has been whether we can directly link expansion of harmful algal blooms to a warming ocean; this paper provides critical, quantitative evidence for just that trend, confirming an expected, but difficult to test, direct link between toxic blooms to climate,” said Dr. Raphael Kudela, Professor of Ocean Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, a national toxic algae expert who was not part of the study.

…”This study demonstrates that the global warming that has already occurred is now impacting human health and our oceans,” said Gobler. “An important implication of the study is that carbon emission and climate change-related policy decisions made today are likely to have important consequences for the fate of our future oceans, including the spread and intensification of toxic algal blooms.”

Christopher J. Gobler, Owen M. Doherty, Theresa K. Hattenrath-Lehmann, Andrew W. Griffith, Yoonja Kang, and R. Wayne Litaker. Ocean warming since 1982 has expanded the niche of toxic algal blooms in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. PNAS, April 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1619575114

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