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Title: Evidence for massive and recurrent toxic blooms of Alexandrium catenella in the Alaskan Arctic
Among the organisms that spread into and flourish in Arctic waters with rising temperatures and sea ice loss are toxic algae, a group of harmful algal bloom species that produce potent biotoxins. Alexandrium catenella , a cyst-forming dinoflagellate that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning worldwide, has been a significant threat to human health in southeastern Alaska for centuries. It is known to be transported into Arctic regions in waters transiting northward through the Bering Strait, yet there is little recognition of this organism as a human health concern north of the Strait. Here, we describe an exceptionally large A. catenella benthic cyst bed and hydrographic conditions across the Chukchi Sea that support germination and development of recurrent, locally originating and self-seeding blooms. Two prominent cyst accumulation zones result from deposition promoted by weak circulation. Cyst concentrations are among the highest reported globally for this species, and the cyst bed is at least 6× larger in area than any other. These extraordinary accumulations are attributed to repeated inputs from advected southern blooms and to localized cyst formation and deposition. Over the past two decades, warming has likely increased the magnitude of the germination flux twofold and advanced the timing of cell inoculation more » into the euphotic zone by 20 d. Conditions are also now favorable for bloom development in surface waters. The region is poised to support annually recurrent A. catenella blooms that are massive in scale, posing a significant and worrisome threat to public and ecosystem health in Alaskan Arctic communities where economies are subsistence based. « less
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Award ID(s):
1733564 1840381 1823002
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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