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Interannual Variability of PSP Toxicity in Eastern Maine: Testing the Leaky Gyre Hypothesis and Improving Regional Forecasts and Management

Author(s): Anderson, Donald M.


Name of Publisher: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Place of Publication: Woods Hole, MA

Publication Type: Abstract

Date of Publication: 2015

Reference Information: CSCOR ECOHAB15-12 Project Summary, 3 pp.

Keywords: Gulf of Maine; Alexandrium fundyense; PSP; cysts; Bay of Fundy; ECOHAB; Leaky Gyre Hypothesis; forecasting

Abstract: The Gulf of Maine (GOM) is a large continental shelf sea with extensive shellfish resources that are annually impacted by Alexandrium fundyense blooms and outbreaks of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), leading to significant social and economic impacts every year, often totaling tens of millions of dollars in losses and sometimes more. Toxicity occurs in three main regions of the Gulf (the eastern and western Gulf of Maine (EGOM and WGOM), and Georges Bank) that are interconnected, but that can also behave independently due to largescale oceanographic forcings. These areas have been the subject of past NOAA-funded investigations that have been highly productive in terms of scientific advances, publications, and management tools, but EGOM toxicity remains poorly understood, despite the serious nature of the PSP problem in that region and its hydrographic connections to the west. One major development from prior research programs is an A. fundyense population dynamics model that has been used to produce near-real-time weekly nowcasts and forecasts, and seasonal forecasts.That model is being transitioned for operational use by NOAA. Model skill is strongest in the WGOM where A. fundyense cyst abundance in a “seedbed” or accumulation zone off mid-coast Maine has proven to be a primary driver of interannual PSP variability. Skill is weakest in the EGOM because the mechanisms responsible for interannual variability are not thought to relate to cyst abundances in that subregion, which are very low, but instead to the advection of established vegetative A. fundyense populations that originate in the Bay of Fundy (BOF) where there is a major cyst seedbed and a gyre that can be retentive for A. fundyense cells. We hypothesize that interannual variations in EGOM toxicity are controlled by these upstream populations, for which there are two key sources of variability: (1) growing conditions,and (2) hydrodynamic leakiness of the BOF gyre. Neither of these aspects is adequately represented in existing models. We therefore propose to investigate linkages between BOF A. fundyense populations and PSP toxicity in the nearshore and offshore waters of the EGOM,to characterize the physical mechanisms that control that export, and to use this information to improve regional HAB management, modeling, and forecasting. Recognizing that high-frequency in situ observations of A. fundyense concentrations in the two exit pathways from the BOF (either side of Grand Manan Island) are needed to capture the episodic nature of the export process, we will utilize a network of novel biosensors called Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs) to obtain data that would not be feasible with ship-based surveys.Daily autonomous measurements at multiple locations will be augmented by satellite-tracked surface drifters released within the gyre, and by three targeted survey cruises to provide spatial context for the ESP observations.

Availability: Available from NCCOS Publications Explorer and from the author.

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