Toxic algae can pose serious problems. Mussels become poisonous and aquaculture can be wiped out. But despite the monitoring of algae and toxins, it is very difficult to forecast when an algal bloom will occur. Now a research team at the University of Gothenburg in co-operation with Oslo University has discovered a way to improve the ability to predict toxic algae blooms.
“By measuring the number of predators of toxic algae in the water, toxic algae blooms can be predicted with greater certainty,” says Erik Selander, a marine researcher at the University of Gothenburg.Poisonous algae sense the presence of zooplankton, causing them to increase their production of toxins to protect themselves from being eaten. Until now there has not been enough high-resolution data for zooplankton to be used for harmful algae forecasts. But the research team at the University of Gothenburg has found a shortcut that solved the problem.
“A simple analysis of a chemical marker from zooplankton in mussels could be used to improve forecasting,” says Erik Selander, who heads the research effort. “The analysis makes it possible to predict toxic algae outbreaks further in advance and with more accuracy than before.”
Important implications for food production and environmental monitoring
The method is important not only for shellfish-eating coastal residents but also for marine food producers.