Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)

Harmful Algal Blooms

The term 'harmful algal blooms' (HABs) covers a heterogeneous set of events that share two characteristics: they are caused by microalgae and they have a negative impact on human activities, including inter alia: human health, fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. Despite these common features, HABs are very diverse in terms of causative organisms, dynamics of blooms and types of impact. Over the last 30 yeats there has been an increase of HAB records in coastal waters around the world. The list of new HAB species has also increased remarkably in recent years as a result of new cases of harmful events, the progress of scientific research in the field, and increased human interactions with the coastal zone. However, it is not possible to demonstrate a world-wide increase in HABs because it is currently not possible to detect long-term trends of algal blooms due to the lack of time-series measurements (i.e. routine measurements over long periods of time) at the correct scale.
Correct management is required to mitigate the threat posed by HABs to the health of the marine environment, the economic development of coastal areas and to human health. The key to predicting HAB phenomena is to identify and quantify adaptations of HAB species that lead to their selection in particular hydrodynamic and ecological conditions. Thus, the central research problem and challenge for biological oceanographers is to understand the critical features and mechanisms underlying the population dynamics of HAB species. This understanding will serve as a basis for improved monitoring and will facilitate the development of models that predict the occurrence, movement, toxicity, and environmental effects of harmful algal blooms. These forecasting capabilities are essential for an efficient management and mitigation procedure.