Projected effects of climate change on Pseudo-nitzschia bloom dynamics in the Gulf of Maine

Suzanna Clark, Katherine A. Hubbard, David K. Ralston, Dennis J. McGillicuddy, Charles Stock, Michael A. Alexander, Enrique Curchitser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Worldwide, warming ocean temperatures have contributed to extreme harmful algal bloom events and shifts in phytoplankton species composition. In 2016 in the Gulf of Maine (GOM), an unprecedented Pseudo-nitzschia bloom led to the first domoic-acid induced shellfishery closures in the region. Potential links between climate change, warming temperatures, and the GOM Pseudo-nitzschia assemblage, however, remain unexplored. In this study, a global climate change projection previously downscaled to 7-km resolution for the Northwest Atlantic was further refined with a 1–3-km resolution simulation of the GOM to investigate the effects of climate change on HAB dynamics. A 25-year time slice of projected conditions at the end of the 21st century (2073–2097) was compared to a 25-year hindcast of contemporary ocean conditions (1994–2018) and analyzed for changes to GOM inflows, transport, and Pseudo-nitzschia australis growth potential. On average, climate change is predicted to lead to increased temperatures, decreased salinity, and increased stratification in the GOM, with the largest changes occurring in the late summer. Inflows from the Scotian Shelf are projected to increase, and alongshore transport in the Eastern Maine Coastal Current is projected to intensify. Increasing ocean temperatures will likely make P. australis growth conditions less favorable in the southern and western GOM but improve P. australis growth conditions in the eastern GOM, including a later growing season in the fall, and a longer growing season in the spring. Combined, these changes suggest that P. australis blooms in the eastern GOM could intensify in the 21st century, and that the overall Pseudo-nitzschia species assemblage might shift to warmer-adapted species such as P. plurisecta or other Pseudo-nitzschia species that may be introduced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103737
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


  • Climate change
  • Gulf of Maine
  • Harmful algal blooms
  • Pseudo-nitzschia
  • ROMS


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