Climate, Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), and Human Health

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: School of Postgraduate Medicine


HABs and their potent natural toxins have been associated with human and animal diseases, ranging from gastrointestinal to neurodegenerative diseases (Zaias 2010, Hoagland 2014). HABs are increasing in aquatic ecosystems worldwide, associated with non-climatic factors (e.g. nutrient loading) and possibly climate change (Anderson 2002, GEOHAB 2006, Moore 2008). Changes in ocean temperature etc. caused by climate change will affect future frequency and algal bloom composition; new toxic species forming significant blooms have been identified throughout Europe. These factors may lead to permanent establishment of once uncommon harmful algal species in UK waters, posing increasing threats to health and wellbeing.

Aims: 1) Investigate associations between climatic/environmental variability and HABs sampled i in UK waters; 2) Quantify past spatio-temporal variability of HABs; combine models and observations to predict current and future occurences of marine and coastal HABs; 3) Explore possible associations between HAB blooms and subsequent human health effects by analysing Public Health England (PHE) health data for syndromic diagnoses associated with HAB events around the UK.


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