Saturday, March 28, 2009

FWC scientists help create benchmark for future red tide research

FWC SCIENTISTS HELP CREATE BENCHMARK FOR FUTURE RED TIDE RESEARCHRed tide experts with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) have contributed to the most comprehensive assessment of Florida red tide published to date. This month's special issue of the scientific journal "Harmful Algae" summarizes current red tide research. In 2006, FWRI, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Mote Marine Laboratory sponsored the "State of the Research on Red Tide in the Gulf of Mexico" scientific workshop. Nine articles resulting from this workshop appear in this special issue of "Harmful Algae," including three landmark articles by FWRI scientists. Having studied Florida's red tide for more than 40 years, Dr. Karen Steidinger provides historical perspective on red tide research in the Gulf of Mexico. Drs. Jan Landsberg and Leanne Flewelling review recent research on how red tide toxins affect marine life, including manatees and birds, both during and after a red tide event. Drs. Cindy Heil and Steidinger address how the state monitors and manages red tide to protect human and environmental health. The articles in "Harmful Algae," which also summarize Florida red tide biology, research and technology, will help FWRI scientists and their partners continue their efforts to predict, monitor and manage red tide's environmental impacts and will provide a benchmark for future research.A Florida red tide is a dense concentration of a microscopic, single-celled, plant-like organism called Karenia brevis. This organism produces toxins that can kill fish, birds, manatees and other marine animals, affecting endangered species and important fisheries. Red tide toxins in the air can irritate the human respiratory system, and eating shellfish exposed to red tide toxins can cause food poisoning. To ensure public safety, FWRI works with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to monitor Florida's shellfish beds for red tide toxins.

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