May 14, 2021

CO2 favors the massive development of toxic algae – The Province

CO2 favors the massive development of toxic algae - The Province


The prestigious international magazine 'Nature', in its edition of Climate change, publishes a research paper on ocean acidification, in which a group of researchers from the Institute of Oceanography and Global Change (IOCAG) of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, led by the Professor of Ecology, Javier Arístegui.

This work indicates that if the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and, therefore, in the ocean continue to increase at the current rate, this could favor the massive development of toxic algae, with far-reaching consequences for the pelagic trophic network. This is the conclusion of an experiment led by the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research GEOMAR (Kiel, Germany), and in which German, Norwegian, Chinese, Danish and German scientists collaborated University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (IOCAG-ULPGC), with logistical support from the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN) This experiment was funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research.

As he explains Ulf Riebesell, Professor of Biological Oceanography at GEOMAR, leader of the study and first author of the article, the experiment was carried out for two months in the coastal waters of the Canary Islands. During this period, the toxic alga Vicicitus globosus manifestly increased its abundance to concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) above 600 ppm (parts per million), developing massively above 800 ppm, with strong negative effects on survival from the rest of the planktonic community. The exact cause of the growth of Vicicitus globosus algae under high CO2 conditions has not yet been identified. Either the alga benefits disproportionately, increasing its rate of photosynthesis, compared to other species, or its toxicity increases with the increase of CO2. "Solving this question requires more detailed analysis in the laboratory," explains Prof. Riebesell.

It is also unknown if the results of this study can be extrapolated to other species of toxic algae. However, Vicicitus globosus is widely distributed, from temperate regions to the tropics, and its blooms have been repeatedly associated with the mortality of fish in coastal waters and aquaculture facilities. "This is the first evidence from a field study demonstrating that ocean acidification can promote the proliferation of toxic algae, another important reason to quickly reduce CO2 emissions," summarizes Prof. Riebesell on the new findings. .

Prof. Javier Arístegui, Spanish expert for the "Panel of the Oceans" of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), highlights that in the next report of the IPCC ("Special Report on the Oceans and the Cryosphere") there will be a mention special to the problem of toxic algae and its relationship with Climate Change, so this article is a timely contribution and of great scientific relevance. Likewise, it considers that the influence of Climate Change on the development of harmful or toxic algae species can be more accentuated in tropical and subtropical regions, especially sensitive to climatic disturbances, as is the case of the Canary Current.

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