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Harmful algal blooms in the Alaskan Arctic: An emerging threat as oceans warm

April 18, 2022

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) present an emerging threat to human and ecosystem health in the Alaskan Arctic. Two HAB toxins are of concern in the region: saxitoxins (STXs), a family of compounds produced by the dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, and domoic acid (DA), produced by multiple species in the diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia. These potent neurotoxins cause paralytic and amnesic shellfish poisoning, respectively, in humans, and can accumulate in marine organisms through food web transfer, causing illness and mortality among a suite of wildlife species. With pronounced warming in the Arctic, along with enhanced transport of cells from southern waters, there is significant potential for more frequent and larger HABs of both types. STXs and DA have been detected in the tissues of a range of marine organisms in the region, many of which are important food resources for local residents. The unique nature of the Alaskan Arctic, including difficult logistical access, lack of response infrastructure, and reliance of coastal populations on the noncommercial acquisition of marine resources for nutritional, cultural, and economic well-being, poses urgent and significant challenges as this region warms and the potential for impacts from HABs expands.

Publication Year 2022
Title Harmful algal blooms in the Alaskan Arctic: An emerging threat as oceans warm
DOI 10.5670/oceanog.2022.121
Authors Donald Anderson, Evangeline Fachon, Katherine Hubbard, Kathi Lefebvre, Peigen Lin, Robert Pickart, Mindy Richlen, Gay Sheffield, Caroline R. Van Hemert
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Oceanography
Index ID 70232363
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB