Public Release: 

URI oceanographers study effects of harmful blooms and red tides on Narragansett Bay

University of Rhode Island

URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) biological oceanographers Ted Smayda and David Borkman have received a $131,800 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to analyze the dynamics, variability, and patterns of harmful blooms and red tides in Narragansett Bay. The researchers' analysis is based on field observations, laboratory-derived data, detailed information on the key species, as well as data from weekly measurements in lower Narragansett Bay over thirty-eight years from 1959 to 1996.

The incidence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) is on the rise. They are appearing in regions previously free from HAB events, and toxic outbreaks of species once considered benign are threatening marine life, shellfish, and humans. Research on HABs is difficult to conduct because the blooms are unpredictable and swift, often disappearing at rates which hinder meaningful field studies.

Smayda's analysis will help to fill in the knowledge gaps in HAB ecology and enhance scientists' ability to predict blooms and develop effective control strategies. He and his colleagues will address how different HABs coexist in a given area, how they are maintained through time, and what mechanisms control their bloom behavior.

The research project will evaluate how climate, and the physical, chemical, and biological factors in the bay interact with each other to create the conditions that cause the different types of harmful algal blooms and benign red tides to occur.

"This EPA grant for data analysis will benefit the citizens of Rhode Island by providing greater understanding of bay ecology needed for effective management and use of bay resources," said Smayda.

"At least eighteen HAB and red tide species bloom within Narragansett Bay" he added, "and represent potential threats to local aquaculture initiatives under consideration. This study is relevant to those initiatives, and I hope it can jumpstart some discussions among the affected individuals, businesses, and organizations."

###

The URI Graduate School of Oceanography is one of the country's largest marine science education programs, and one of the world's foremost marine research institutions. Founded in 1961 in Narragansett, RI, GSO serves a community of scientists who are researching the causes of and solutions to such problems as acid rain, harmful algal blooms, global warming, air and water pollution, oil spills, overfishing, and coastal erosion. GSO is home to the Coastal Institute, the Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, the Institute for Underwater Archaeology, and the National Sea Grant Library.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.