January 7, 2009

‘Red tide’ linked to nutrient pollution

U.S. and other scientists have linked nutrient pollution to an increase in the number of harmful algal blooms, sometimes called red tide, in coastal seas.

When harmful algal blooms occur, they taint seafood with toxins, cause human respiratory and skin irritations and cause fish or mammal kills in coastal waters.

The link to nutrient pollution, presented in 21 articles in the journal Harmful Algae, could elevate harmful algal blooms to the forefront of coastal management issues needing immediate attention, said journal editor and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science researcher Patricia Glibert.

The articles suggest degraded water quality from increased nutrient pollution promotes the development and persistence of many harmful algal blooms, which are a dense aggregation of phytoplankton, algae or cyanobacteria.

Understanding the complex relationships between nutrients and the outbreak of harmful algae is key to reducing future blooms, the researchers say.

They also say new tools for monitoring and predicting these events can help scientists better understand harmful algal blooms.

An international symposium on algal blooms and nutrient pollution will be held in Beijing in October.