Stressor Impacts & Mitigation

Managers of fisheries, beaches, and water treatment facilities need information on HAB detection and forecasting to plan for and deal with the adverse environmental, economic, and health effects associated with HABs. These managers also need to know about a bloom’s toxicity: is it a mere discoloration of the water, or is it dangerous to drink or touch? In 1998, Congress recognized the severity of these threats and authorized the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. Subsequent reauthorizations expanded the mandate for NCCOS to advance the scientific understanding and ability to detect, monitor, assess, and predict HAB and hypoxia events.

NCCOS empowers communities to take action on HAB issues by developing detection tools and forecasts. We are researching what makes blooms toxic (not all blooms are toxic), and developing hand-held and autonomous tools to detect toxins, as well as analytical methods and reference materials to ensure measurements are accurate. Short-term forecasts pinpoint where blooms are, how big they are, and where they are headed. Longer-term, seasonal forecasts predict the severity of HABs for the bloom season in a particular region. Citizen monitoring networks inform managers of the onset of toxic bloom events. These new detection technologies and forecasts are not only making drinking water safer and helping us understand which blooms will become toxic, they are opening the door to new commercial fisheries by providing accurate onsite testing for toxins in commercial shellfish.

See All Harmful Algal Blooms Content

Contaminants and nutrients pollute the marine and coastal environment, causing acute or long-term impacts to ecosystems, humans and animals – from shellfish to pets. Federal agencies with regulatory, management, or response missions have science needs that frequently overlap with those of community, fisheries, and public works managers. NCCOS provides the science to help managers understand the biological effects of contaminants and nutrients and evolve actions over time, or respond quickly to avert a crisis.

NCCOS conducts national or long-term research to understand the effects of contaminants, nutrients, and hypoxia. Measuring contaminants in mussels and oysters, or the breadth of the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone, where agricultural runoff from the middle of the country leads to summertime conditions that cannot support bottom-dwelling marine life. These measurements and predictions allow better decisions affecting health and seafood safety by local, regional, and upstream managers.

NCCOS is also concerned with more specialized or localized research questions where there is a unique need by federal, tribal, state, and local officials, often in partnership with an industry or non-profit organization. For example, scientific understanding of the impacts of oil dispersants in a laboratory setting can help coastal and fisheries managers, and the oil and chemical industries make long-term and rapid response decisions. NCCOS provides the science to help managers understand the biological effects of contaminants and nutrients and evolve their actions over time, or respond quickly to avert a crisis.

See all Biological Effects of Contaminants and Nutrients Content

Stressors are factors that alter the biological performance or state of an ecosystem. Primary stressors include harmful algal blooms, chemical contaminants, nutrients, and pathogens that impact coastal habitats, resources, and communities. These stressors have been reported in every state and are increasingly affecting coastal, Great Lakes, and inland communities and economies. Chemical contaminants, hypoxic conditions, and the toxins produced by harmful algal blooms, for example, threaten human and animal health, and can cripple local and regional economies by contaminating drinking water for humans and livestock, closing fisheries, repelling tourists, and lowering property values.

Coastal, Great Lakes and inland communities rely on NCCOS for ecological forecasting, stressor detection, and an understanding of stressor impacts on coastal resources to assist in managing the security of their water supply, safety of local fishing and shellfishing industries, the health of their people, and the strength of their coastal and lakefront tourism. Federal agencies such as the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy, and NOAA use NCCOS’s scientific findings, models, tools, and technologies to inform response actions and injury assessments, and in coastal management applications. NCCOS conducts its SIM research in two sub-priority areas (shown above).