In this blog Elisa Berdalet discusses her recent Journal of the Marine Biological Association paper Marine harmful algal blooms, human health and wellbeing: challenges and opportunities in the 21st century.

This paper came from discussions at the “Oceans and Human Health at the beginning of the 21st century” workshop held in Bedruthan (Cornwall, United Kingdom) in March 2014.

The aim is to facilitate the understanding of the relevance of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), natural phenomena that can be favored by antropogenic pressures in coastal areas and influenced by global warming and associated changes in the oceans.

HABs have a direct impact on human health and wellbeing, mainly through the negative consequences to ecosystem services and other marine organisms and environments.

This paper highlights the main challenges posed by marine HABs, and discuss the tools available to prevent and mitigate HABs impacts on human health and wellbeing in the coming years.

HABs are a global challenge that require intensive, multidisciplinary and collaborative local and international scientific research, as well as coordination with stakeholders, policy makers and the general public.


Ostreopsis attaches to benthic organisms like these macroalgae. Dense blooms are associated to macrobenthic mortalities due likely to hypoxia, although direct toxic impacts can not be discarded.  Photo credit: J.M. Fortuño and M. Vila (ICM-CSIC)



Image of Ostreopsis. Photo credit: J.M. Fortuño and M. Vila (ICM-CSIC)

Our paper has been produced by international researchers that provided different perspectives on the HABs phenomenon including fundamental ecology, microalgal physiology, medicin, chemistry and economy.

I have been developing research mainly at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Barcelona (Spanish Research Council, CSIC), investigating the dynamics of HABs through integrating field studies and ecophysiological research in the laboratory. At present, I am looking into the blooms of the benthic toxic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis and their impacts on human health.


Main image: Dinophysis. Photo credit: S. González-Gil and Beatriz Reguera (IEO).

Read the article for free until 25 February 2016.

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