Harmful Algal Bloom Hotspots Really Are Hot: A Case Study from Monterey Bay, California
Friday, 18 December 2015: 08:15
3009 (Moscone West)
Monterey Bay, California is one of several recognized hotspots for harmful algal blooms along the US west coast, particularly for the toxigenic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia, which produces domoic acid and is responsible for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. Historical observations have linked bloom activity to anomalously warm conditions with weak and sporadic upwelling. In particular, blooms appear to be associated with El Niño conditions. Monterey, as with much of the US west coast, experienced unusual warm conditions in spring and summer 2014, leading to multiple ecosystem effects including massive algal blooms, concentration of apex predators nearshore, and unusually high levels of domoic acid. As the warm anomalies continued and strengthened into 2015, Monterey (and much of the west coast) has been experiencing the largest and most toxic algal bloom recorded in the last 15 years, as well as unprecedented coccolithophore blooms associated with warm, nutrient-depleted waters. With the strengthening El Niño conditions developing in summer 2015, it is possible that 2016 will result in a third consecutive year of unusually toxic algal blooms. Using a combination of historical observations, intensive field studies, and predictive models we explore the hypothesis that these warm anomalies lead to shifts in the typical upwelling-dominated food web leading to a collapse of the ecosystem towards the coast, unusual algal blooms, and enhanced trophic transfer of toxins, resulting in magnified negative impacts to wildlife and, potentially, humans.