Dynamics of Alexandrium fundyense distributions in the Gulf of Maine: an observational and modeling study of nearshore and offshore shellfish toxicity, vertical toxin flux, and bloom dynamics in a complex shelf sea.

Print version
Text Size: Change text to small (default) Change text to medium Change text to large
Sample Map
Enlarge Image
Map showing: stations to be sampled in the large-scale plankton and hydrography surveys, Slocum glider tracks (dashed line), shellfish toxicity time series stations, and sediment and particle filtration trap mooring. Major Alexandrium transport pathways are shown with red arrows. Note that dozens of state shellfish monitoring stations are located on the coast from Maine to Massachusetts. GB ? Georges Bank; NS ? Nantucket Shoals; SB ? Stellwagen Bank; mc ? mahogany clam. (D. Anderson/WHOI)

Transport Map
Enlarge Image
The Gulf of Maine showing major currents, transport pathways, and branch points (arrows), areas with known PSP toxicity (red shading), and offshore zones closed in 2005 & 1989 (outlined in blue and red respectively). Due to limited sampling, the red shaded zones represent a small fraction of the offshore area that may experience PSP outbreaks. Also shown: A. fundyense cyst seedbeds (dashed lines), ECOHAB-GoM domain (blue shaded area), EMCC ? eastern segment of the Maine Coastal Current; WMCC ? western segment; NS ? Nantucket Shoals; BoF ? Bay of Fundy; GSC ? Great South Channel. Question marks denote areas where we do not understand hydrographic forcings of A. fundyense dynamics. (D. Anderson/WHOI)

The Gulf of Maine (GoM) and its adjacent southern New England shelf is a vast region with extensive shellfish resources, large portions of which are frequently contaminated with paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins produced by the dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense. (For additional information, please visit the Northeast PSP site.)  The year 2005 was an historical one for A. fundyense and PSP dynamics in this area, with a bloom that was more severe than any seen in the last thirty years. There are significant challenges to the management of toxic shellfish in this region - in particular the need to document the major transport pathways for A. fundyense, and to develop an understanding of the relationship between blooms and environmental forcings, as well as linkages to toxicity patterns in nearshore and offshore shellfish. An additional challenge is to expand modeling and forecasting capabilities to include the entire region, and to transition these tools to operational, management use.

The overall objective of this project is to establish a comprehensive regional-scale understanding of Alexandrium fundyense dynamics, transport pathways, and associated shellfish toxicity and to use this information and relevant technologies to assist managers, regulators, and industry to fully exploit nearshore and offshore shellfish resources threatened by PSP, with appropriate safeguards for human health.

GOMTOX will utilize a combination of large-scale survey cruises, autonomous gliders, moored instruments and traps, drifters, satellite imagery and numerical models to:
  1. Investigate A. fundyense bloom dynamics and the pathways that link this organism to toxicity in both nearshore and offshore shellfish in the Gulf of Maine and southern New England shelf waters
  2. Investigate the vertical structure of A. fundyense blooms in the study region, emphasizing the distribution of cells, zooplankton fecal pellets, other vectors for toxin, and their linkage to toxicity in offshore shellfish
  3. Assess interannual to interdecadal variability in A. fundyense abundance and PSP toxicity
  4. Incorporate field observations into a suite of numerical models for hindcasting and forecasting applications
  5. Synthesize results and disseminate the information and technology, transitioning scientific and management tools to the regulatory community for operational use


WHOI logo

Last updated April 7, 2009
© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. All rights reserved