WHOI and NOAA launch report on the socio-economic impacts of harmful algal blooms in the United States

Source: US National Harmful Algal Multiplication Office

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur in all 50 U.S. states and many produce toxins that cause illness or death to humans and commercially important species. However, attempts to place a more accurate dollar value on the full range of these influences often vary widely in their methods and level of detail, impeding an understanding of the scale of their social and economic impacts.

In order to improve and harmonize estimates of the impacts of harmful algal blooms nationwide, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Center for Coastal Oceanography (NCCOS) and the US National Office of Harmful Algal Propagation at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) held a workshop meeting led by a scientist Honorary Oceans at WHOI Porter Hoagland and Director of the NCCOS Event Monitoring and Response (MERHAB) Program, Marc Sudleson. Participants focused on approaches to better assess the social and economic impacts of harmful algal blooms in marine and freshwater ecosystems (primarily the Great Lakes) in the United States. The workshop proceedings report describes the group’s goals, and provides recommendations developed by 40 participants, most of them economists and sociologists from a range of US universities, agencies, and regions. Their recommendations fall into two broad categories: those intended to help establish a socio-economic assessment framework, and those that help establish a national agenda for harmful algal blooms research.

“This has been a goal of research and response communities for a long time, but coming to a strong national estimate has been difficult, for a number of reasons, mainly related to the diversity of algae species and the wide variety of methods they use can affect how humans use oceans and freshwater bodies,” Hoagland said. . “This gives us a strong base on which to build insight that will improve our estimates significantly.”

The framework recommendations call for strengthening inter-agency coordination; Improving research communications and coordination between research networks; Incorporate socioeconomic assessments into Harmful Algal Propagation Forecasts and Monitoring Networks; Use open access databases to create baselines and define primary exit cases; Facilitating rapid response to socio-economic studies; Improve public health outcome reporting and highlighting of HAB-related diseases; Promote the use of local and traditional ecological knowledge to improve harmful algal bloom responses; Involve affected communities in citizen science; Engage graduate students in HAB’s social and economic research.

The research agenda recommendations include elements necessary to address gaps in our understanding of the social and economic impacts of harmful algal blooms. It includes a proposed approach to obtain an improved national estimate of the economic impacts of harmful algal blooms; Support rapid ethnographic assessments and in-depth assessments of the social impacts of harmful algal blooms; Determine social and economic impact thresholds to initiate more detailed impact studies (as in the case of specific HABs); Sponsoring research on the value of scientific research leading to a better understanding of the flowering environment; Evaluate the value of HABs mitigation efforts, such as forecasts, control methods and implementation costs for each; Support research to improve communication about harmful algal bloom risk and traceability, and to improve understanding of the incidence, severity and costs of human disease associated with harmful algal blooms.

“These recommendations give us a robust series of next steps to focus more on social and economic research related to harmful algal blooms,” said Don Anderson, director of the US National Office of Harmful Algal Populations. “The report is sure to stimulate further collaboration that will provide a better understanding of the many complex social and economic impacts of harmful algal blooms and provide the tools necessary to increase the effectiveness of efforts to reduce impacts on society and the environment.”

A detailed final action report and more information about the workshop are available on the US National HAB office website.


About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) is a private non-profit organization in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Founded in 1930, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stems from a perfect blend of science and engineering – which has made it one of the most trusted and technologically advanced leaders in fundamental and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, super-ship operations, and unparalleled capabilities of robotics in the deep sea. We play a leading role in ocean monitoring and operate the most comprehensive suite of data collection platforms in the world. Highest, engineers and students collaborate on more than 800 simultaneous projects around the world – both above and below the waves – pushing the boundaries of knowledge and capabilities. For more information, please visit http: // www.Hue.Edo

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