In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have sequenced the genes of a harmful algae bloom, unveiling never-before-seen interactions between algae and bacteria that are thought to propagate their growth.
The work also opens up the possibility of forecasting the appearance of a bloom and taking measures to prevent it – work that can save millions, even billions of dollars, in economic losses worldwide, say the researchers.
“This technique has given us one of the most detailed looks to date into the strategy algae use to grow uncontrollably, leading to devastating consequences in our coastal communities,” said Adrian Marchetti, who led the research in UNC’s department of marine sciences. “It is also one of the first efforts to get the algae to tell us what’s going on in their natural environment, which wasn’t possible to this degree before. Now, states have the potential to be more prepared than ever to warn the public about the potential of a harmful bloom and mitigate their effects.”