Academic journal article Science and Children

Toxic Algae Tied to Warm Ocean Conditions

Academic journal article Science and Children

Toxic Algae Tied to Warm Ocean Conditions

Article excerpt

A new study connects 2015's unprecedented toxic algal bloom in the west coast to the unusually warm ocean conditions in winter and spring of that year.

The authors found that the 2015 harmful algal bloom, which set records for its spatial extent and level of toxicity, was dominated by a single species of diatom, Pseudo-nitzschia australis, normally found farther south off California.

Warm water not only allowed this species to survive, it also created an environment favoring its growth. By early 2015, the warm "blob" had moved toward shore and spread all along the west coast. Warmer water creates less dense surface water that is more likely to stay floating on the surface, where it can become depleted in nutrients. P. australis can quickly intake nitrogen from a variety of sources and appear to outcompete other, nontoxic phytoplankton in nutrient-depleted warm water.

The new study performed experiments with P. australis from the 2015 bloom. The study shows that when these cells experience warmer temperatures and get more nutrients, they can double or triple their cell division rates, allowing them to potentially bloom into a large population fairly quickly at sea. …

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