Improving the accuracy and utility of harmful algal bloom forecasting systems
One of the goals of harmful algal bloom (HAB) research has been to develop predictive capabilities for blooms. Major steps have been made towards this goal, including the development of physical-biological models of HAB species that simulate bloom dynamics in specific regions. In the Gulf of Maine region of the northeastern U.S., models have been developed that have considerable skill in simulating blooms of Alexandrium fundyense, the causative organism for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) outbreaks in the region. This model is now being used for both short-term and long-term forecasts. This paper describes several ongoing activities that will improve the accuracy and usefulness of the model and forecasts. These include efforts to streamline or minimize the sampling and analysis requirements of annual A. fundyense cyst surveys, efforts to quantitatively describe or characterize the severity of predicted outbreaks, and plans to obtain real-time data on Alexandrium cell abundance and toxicity that can be assimilated into the models. Together, these and other activities are moving us towards an operational forecasting system for Alexandrium blooms in the region.