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Could red tide get stronger in a warming planet?

Harmful algae may be more resilient to changing greenhouse gas

Oceanographers research how red tide organisms react to both low and higher levels of carbon dioxide gases in the atmosphere.
Oceanographers research how red tide organisms react to both low and higher levels of carbon dioxide gases in the atmosphere. (WFLA, FWC via CNN)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Researchers at Florida State University are looking at how the warming planet impacts red tide outbreaks in Florida.

Oceanographers speculate the heat-trapping CO2 gas is increasing around the planet which could intensify the effects of harmful red tide algae on coastal ecosystems.

The study, which was published in the journal Progress in Oceanography, found red tide organisms may be more resilient to shifting CO2 chemistry than previously realized.

Red tide algae, called Karenia brevis, is able to thrive equally well in both low-CO2 environments, like during red tide blooms, and in high-CO2 environments.

"If there's more carbon around, it could potentially alter cellular biochemical pathways in K. brevis," said co-author and FSU graduate student Tristyn Lee Bercel.

Bercel focused on the lower end of the projected CO2 and saw a slight, although not statistically significant, increase in the toxins produced by the algae with enhanced CO2.

But they said more research on the species and its ecosystem is needed to confidently determine the nature and extent of those effects.


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