In First, Alaska’s Arctic Waters Appear Poised for Dangerous Algal Blooms

"Climate change is bringing potentially deadly dinoflagellate blooms to the Far North, posing a new risk to food security."

"Researchers in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea region have found massive numbers of a tiny dinoflagellate called Alexandrium catenella lurking in a largely inert state on the seabed. The microorganisms, which have never before been mapped in such large numbers in Alaska’s Arctic, produce algal blooms known as red tides that carry a toxin that is potentially fatal to people and marine wildlife. The discovery is concerning for those living in an area where human diets and economies are wed to the ocean.

According to Evie Fachon, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, the dinoflagellates likely drifted north as inert cysts from warmer waters, and have been lying on the seafloor for some unknown amount of time. Fachon says that, like a seed, these cysts can remain dormant but alive for long periods in inhospitable environments, only blooming under the right conditions.

Although A. catenella cysts have been found this far north in the past, researchers believe cold water and widespread sea ice, which blocks sunlight from entering the water, have historically prevented them from blooming. But now, that appears to be changing."

Tim Lydon reports for Hakai magazine December 2, 2021.

Source: Hakai, 12/03/2021