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Research on Alexandrium in the Gulf of Maine

Regional Ecosystems Research on Alexandrium in the Gulf of Maine

A concerted effort to understand Alexandrium dynamics in the Gulf of Maine began with the NOAA and NSF-supported ECOHAB-Gulf of Maine project in 1998. Since then, NOAA and a variety of other federal agencies have continued this effort either by providing funding (NOAA, NSF, NIEHS, EPA, NASA) or participating as partners in research projects (NOAA, FDA, USGS). The research has culminated in the ability to accurately forecast both the severity of the coming bloom season (based on predictive models and maps of seed-like cysts) and the bloom’s progression and status throughout the bloom.

NOAA CSCOR Funded Research Provides Knowledge Base to Aid New England Red Tide Prediction and Response

CSCOR provided $18 million for research on Alexandrium in the Gulf of Maine from 1998 to 2008 through ECOHAB, MERHAB, and HAB Event Response. The knowledge gained from this decade of research significantly enhanced response capabilities in the region. New molecular methods for rapidly detecting and mapping Alexandrium are now used to track the bloom in almost real-time. These data, combined with oceanographic and meteorological data from ships and moorings, are used in a coupled biological and physical model to forecast the spread of the red tide. This forecast is used to provide weekly updates of probable bloom magnitude and location to marine resource managers so they can focus sampling. The model, coupled with new cyst maps, is also used to predict the bloom potential prior to the bloom season. This integration of ocean observing system data with models during bloom events is an example of the predictive, regional, ecosystem-based research being conducted at NOAA to assist managers and the public in understanding and responding to coastal ocean issues.

“GOMTOX” Project Expands Research to New Areas of the Gulf of Maine

The ongoing ECOHAB-funded ‘GOMTOX’ project extends past coastal studies to the larger Gulf of Maine in order to establish a comprehensive regional-scale understanding of Alexandrium bloom dynamics, transport, and associated shellfish toxicity. The project builds on data collected during the historic 2005 red tide, which led to closure of both nearshore shellfish beds and offshore beds in federal and state waters out to Georges Bank. The research aims to help managers, regulators, and the shellfish industry fully utilize and effectively manage both nearshore and offshore shellfish resources. For more on the GOMTOX project, visit WHOI’s GOMTOX project page.

Cyst Maps Help Predict Red Tide Potential

Seeds or “cysts” of Alexandrium are deposited on the seafloor as each year’s bloom declines. Around the beginning of April each year, the cysts naturally germinate and turn into cells that swim up from the seafloor and, by the end of April, begin to appear in large numbers in the waters off coastal Maine. Maps showing abundance and distribution of cysts on the seafloor are an important piece of information for annual forecasts. Wind is another critical factor that affects landfall and geographic extent of the bloom. Annual cyst maps have been funded through ECOHAB and Event Response since 2004.

Collaborative Response to Bloom Events

Information About CSCOR HAB Programs & other Alexandrium Research in the Northeast

Press Releases for NOAA Funded Studies on Harmful Algal Blooms in the Gulf of Maine