WARMING SEAS PLUS FERTILIZER/LIVESTOCK WASTE = TOXIC ALGAE, KILLING SEAL LIONS, BIRDS, PORPOISES

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19 august 2016

Ocean Slime Spreading Quickly Across the Earth

Toxic algae blooms, perhaps accelerated by ocean warming and other climate shifts, are spreading, poisoning marine life and people.

By Craig Welch, National Geographic August 19, 2016

Even as thousands of sea lions were dying in California in 2015 because warm water altered the food web, dozens more were suffering seizures and death after being exposed to domoic acid following the biggest toxic algal bloom on record along the U.S. West Coast.

When sea lions suffered seizures and birds and porpoises started dying on the California coast last year, scientists weren't entirely surprised. Toxic algae is known to harm marine mammals.

But when researchers found enormous amounts of toxin in a pelican that had been slurping anchovies, they decided to sample fresh-caught fish. To their surprise, they found toxins at such dangerous levels in anchovy meat that the state urged people to immediately stop eating them.

The algae bloom that blanketed the West Coast in 2015 was the most toxic one ever recorded in that region. But from the fjords of South America to the waters of the Arabian Sea, harmful blooms, perhaps accelerated by ocean warming and other shifts linked to climate change, are wreaking more havoc on ocean life and people. And many scientists project they will get worse.

"What emerged from last year's event is just how little we really know about what these things can do," says Raphael Kudela, a toxic algae expert at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

It's been understood for decades, for example, that nutrients, such as fertilizer and livestock waste that flush off farms and into the Mississippi River, can fuel harmful blooms in the ocean, driving low-oxygen dead zones like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. Such events have been on the rise around the world, as population centers boom and more nitrogen and other waste washes out to sea.

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