Penn State NASA

HAB Ecological Forecasting


As we have seen, there is great variety in the biology and ecology of HAB species. However, they share one major thing in common: all of them have the ability to wreak havoc on coastal fisheries. Since the growth of most if not all of the species directly responds to nitrogen loading, limiting the harm on fisheries will require significant changes in agricultural practices combined with modifications of drainage in coastal regions. Such changes will be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish in the near term. Thus, the best strategies to deal with HABs focus on the integration of highly detailed algal sampling programs, ecological forecasts, and resource management. For example, if HABs can be predicted, then warnings can be issued and areas placed off limits to fisheries. Such strategies are being employed in areas where HABs are common, including the Gulf of Maine, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Northwest.

HAB forecasts integrate ecological models, based on the physics, chemistry, and biology of nearshore and offshore regions, with satellite data and in situ measurements of cell counts and toxin levels. For example, models can be used to predict the development and movement of a HAB in the region of interest. Models can be used to identify HAB triggers (i.e., nutrients or temperature), likely areas of cyst seedbeds, likely bloom toxicity based on cell density, and progression of the toxin through the food chain, as well as the ultimate decline of the HAB.