NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) are pleased to announce support for 12 new and 22 continuing harmful algal bloom (HAB) research awards. The awards, totaling $10.2M, fund projects around the nation through the ECOHAB and MERHAB programs and involve over 166 scientists from 89 institutions around the United States.
NCCOS HAB competitive research programs develop science-based solutions to address HAB impacts that affect coastal resources and economies in every U.S. coastal region. HAB species and impacts vary across the nation. NCCOS projects advance the ecological understanding of HAB species and toxins, apply new HAB detection technologies to enhance monitoring capacity, produce HAB forecasts, and explore HAB prevention and control methods. The projects are selected following a rigorous, competitive peer-review process that ensures support for the highest quality science. Summaries of new and continued competitive research projects by region are listed below.
Florida and the Gulf of Mexico
Karenia brevis blooms (commonly called red tide) occur frequently in this region and can be long lived. They can cause gastrointestinal distress, respiratory illness, and eye irritation in humans; disrupt tourism and valuable fisheries; kill marine life; and damage the ecosystem. Economic impacts of these blooms in Florida can rival hurricanes. New research will assess the socioeconomic impacts of the extensive 2017–2019 Florida red tide, and implement new field, laboratory, and modeling approaches to investigate what causes red tides to start and stop. Continuing projects evaluate environmental factors that drive red tide formation in Texas and a medical intervention for rehabilitating Florida manatees exposed to red tide toxins. Additional HAB species pose challenges in this region, some of which are investigated in a continuing project that seeks to determine the effects of hyper-toxic strains of ciguatera on coral reef food webs.
The Great Lakes, and western Lake Erie in particular, are subject to blooms of toxic cyanobacteria (CyanoHABs) that pose risks to drinking water, recreation, and wildlife. The new award will support new research to create portable cyanotoxin detection technology for use by beach managers, water utilities, and charter fishing boat captains. Continuing projects aim to develop a predictive understanding of CyanoHAB toxin production, enhance our ability to forecast toxicity, and aid NOAA and Lake Erie water utilities with toxin forecasting capabilities.
New England coastal waters have long been impacted by Alexandrium, a species that produces neurotoxins that can accumulate in shellfish, causing paralytic shellfish poisoning. Other species have recently emerged, including Pseudo-nitzschia (PN) and Dinophysis, capable of producing toxins that can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning and diarrhetic shellfish poisoning syndromes, respectively. Two of the new awards will support a new New England HAB monitoring network and development of a paralytic shellfish toxin forecast. Continued research aims to identify factors that control the growth and toxicity of Alexandrium algae.
Chesapeake and Delaware Bays
HABs in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays can contaminate shellfish beds and trigger fish kills, resulting in severe impacts on aquaculture and fisheries. One new award in this region supports a national monitoring network that uses automated, field-based detection to study what triggers Dinophysis, the algae responsible for diarrhetic shellfish poisoning. Five continuing awards will help us better predict toxic Heterosigma in Delaware Bay, Cochlodinium and Alexandrium blooms in the Chesapeake Bay, examine food web impacts of Alexandrium, identify the drivers of Dinophysis growth and model nutrient relationships to better predict HAB blooms in Chesapeake Bay.
In California, surveys have highlighted the co-occurrence of multiple HAB species, including PN and freshwater cyanobacterial toxins. Some PN blooms produce the potent neurotoxin domoic acid, which can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans. A major PN bloom in 2015 resulted in marine mammal mortalities, and crab, bivalve, and other fisheries closures. Three new awards in this region will support research on factors controlling bloom toxicity, and on cost-effective methods to measure HAB toxins. One project will test a new sampling method, Solid Phase Adsorption Toxin Testing (SPATT) that can simultaneously measure multiple toxins in coastal environments; another will address the transfer of freshwater algal toxins to marine bivalves; and the final project will investigate how environmental factors control production of domoic acid by toxic PN species in the California Current system. Two continuing awards will support the improved prediction of PN blooms off Southern California, and the influence of marine bacteria in PN bloom formation and toxin production.
Pacific Northwest and Alaska
HABs in the Pacific Northwest impact commercial and subsistence shellfish harvesting. Resource managers in Oregon and Washington have to make decisions about shellfish bed closures, and Native Alaskans need better insight and testing capabilities for HAB occurrence and toxin contamination in their local waters. The two new awards will include expansion of HAB toxin monitoring to include domoic acid and diarrhetic shellfish poisoning toxins and research using modified Second Generation Environmental Sample Processors to improve early warnings and forecasts of domoic acid events. Two continuing awards will support development of an early warning system for Pseudo-nitzschia HABs for the Pacific Northwest’s outer-coast beaches, and identifying the mechanisms behind wintertime occurrences of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning toxicity in geoduck clam fisheries in Southeast Alaska.
View the full list of FY19 HAB awards here.
View full list of FY18 HAB awards here.
View information and a full list of HAB event response awards here.
NOAA Press Release available here.