Quantcast

How Will Climate Change Effect Harmful Marine Bacteria Brought on by Saharan Dust?

Climate

A population explosion of the flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio, may just be one of the many realities the Gulf Coast will face in the future.

Every summer big dust plumes leave the Saharan and Sahel deserts in Africa and travel across the Atlantic. The dust eventually gets deposited in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf—including coastal Texas.

Dust plume off the Sahara desert over the northeast Atlantic Ocean. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Michael Wetz, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, has secured a $220,758 grant that will allow him to provide insight into the effects of global climate change on growth of marine bacteria such as Vibrio. The grant, funded by the National Science Foundation, will provide the first look on how marine bacteria respond to the long term effects of Saharan Dust.

Vibrio is common in bodies of water, including Corpus Christi Bay, and lives off energy from its environment. This is where Saharan dust comes in. Bacteria, like Vibrio, absorb nutrients from the dust that falls in the ocean and use these nutrients to survive and multiply. More dust in our atmosphere means more dust in our oceans and could trigger a population explosion of Vibrio.

“Climate models suggest that the Saharan and Sahel regions of Africa are likely to become drier over the coming century due to climate change,” said Wetz. “These factors suggest that there will likely be more of this dust going into the atmosphere and oceans, potentially leading to more outbreaks of organisms such as Vibrio.”

Wetz said other studies suggest that this dust affects growth of not only vibrio, but also microbes that cause coral disease in the Caribbean, as well as growth of the red tide organism in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wetz will focus on Vibrio’s response to Saharan dust and identify the key components of the dust that causes bacterial outbreaks in the environment.

“One of my big research interests is understanding how climate and human-driven environmental change affects coastal water quality,” said Wetz. “This study has direct linkages to climate change, and the response of these organisms will have significant implications for the health of our marine ecosystems.”

The project is set to take place in the Florida Keys and Wetz will collaborate with Dr. Erin Lipp from the University of Georgia, who is the Primary Investigator on the project. Other collaborators include Dr. Bill Landing from Florida State University, Dr. Liz Ottesen from the University of Georgia, Dr. Dale Griffin from USGS, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Professor of Mathematics Dr. Blair Sterba-Boatwright.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Parasitic Flatworm Could Decimate Coral Reefs Worldwide

Seabed Survey Shows Deep, Remote Ocean Waters Littered With Human Trash

Scientists to Build Underwater Bio-Dome Simulating Future Ocean Acidification Levels

-------- 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

"It would be great to see all the candidates join Elizabeth Warren in taking the No Big Ag Money Pledge," said Citizens Regeneration Lobby's Alexis Baden-Mayer. Peter Blanchard / Flickr / ric (CC BY 2.0)

By Andrea Germanos

Food system justice and environmental advocates on Wednesday urged all Democratic presidential hopefuls to follow in the footsteps of Sen. Elizabeth Warren in signing a pledge rejecting campaign cash from food and agribusiness corporations.

Read More
A new study shows the impact Native Americans had on landscapes was "small" compared to what followed by Europeans. The findings provide important takeaway for conservation in New England today, seen above in a view of areas surrounding Rangeley Lakes in Maine. Cappi Thompson / Moment / Getty Images

There's a theory going around that Native Americans actively managed the land the lived on, using controlled burns to clear forests. It turns out that theory is wrong. New research shows that Native Americans barely altered the landscape at all. It was the Europeans who did that, as ZME Science reported.

Read More
Sponsored
Loggers operate in an area of lodgepole pine trees killed by the mountain pine beetle in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest on Sept. 13, 2019 in Montana. As climate change makes summers hotter and drier in the Northern Rockies, forests are threatened with increasing wildfire activity, deadly pathogens and insect infestations, including the mountain pine beetle outbreak. The insects have killed more than six million acres of forest across Montana since 2000. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Donald Trump told a crowd at the Davos World Economic Forum Tuesday that the U.S. will join the Forum's 1t.org initiative to restore and conserve one trillion trees around the world, according to The Hill.

Read More
Wild rice flatbread is one of many Native recipes found in Indigikitchen. Indigikitchen

The online cooking show Indigikitchen is providing a platform to help disseminate Indigenous food recipes — while helping eaters recognize their impact on the planet and Native communities.

Read More

On the Solomon Islands, rats and poachers are the two major threats to critically endangered sea turtles. A group of local women have joined forces to help save the animals from extinction.

Read More