The author reports on a recent study that found that rising temperatures across the globe is contributing to the growth of toxic algae causing harmful effects to ocean mammals in northern regions.
Harmful algal blooms produce toxins that can be deadly to marine mammals. In the US, such toxins—unheard of 20 years ago—have caused almost half of all unusual marine mammal deaths in the last two decades, particularly among California sea lions. Now, for the first time scientists have discovered algal toxins farther north in Alaskan marine mammals; the mammals’ health can be jeopardized by these toxins.
“What really surprised us was finding these toxins so widespread in Alaska, far north of where they have been previously documented in marine mammals,” said Kathi Lefebvre, a scientist at NOAA Fisheries and lead researcher of the study.
Algal blooms occur when some species of phytoplankton grow rapidly while conditions are favorable. They are a common phenomenon in tropical and temperate regions.