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Mar 13

Combating Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Threat: An Operational Model

Speaker : Jauad EL KHARRAZ (1)

Jauad El KharrazAbstract: Red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon, higher than normal concentration of microscopic, single celled, photosynthetic algae. The coastal waters of many regions in the world host many indigenous species of marine algae whose populations are greatly influenced by water quality. Changing water quality can trigger rapid growth in certain algal populations. These algal ‘‘blooms’’ (commonly referred to as harmful algal blooms or HABs) produce toxins, which are harmful to human and marine species health. HABs are a concern for desalination plants due to the high algal biomass present in source waters, and the diversity of substances that some toxic algae produce. HABs can cause significant operational issues that result in increased chemical consumption, increased membrane fouling rates, and in extreme cases, a plant to be taken off-line. These impacts can be severe, as seen during a 2008 – 2009 HAB in the Gulf of Oman that negatively affected multiple desalination plants, including one that had to cease operations for 55 days in Barka site (Oman). In the US, Coastal HAB events have been estimated to result in economic impacts of at least USD82 million each year.

To address this challenge, an international research team led by the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) in Oman, in partnership with several organizations implemented a project using the state‐of‐the‐art satellite remote sensing and numerical modeling technology to develop an early warning system. Such an early warning system will contribute significantly to combatting potentially lethal Red Tide phenomena. A potential synthesized approach was established within this project by combining multiple accessible satellite remote sensing approaches including visual interpretation, spectra analysis, parameters retrieval and spatial-temporal pattern analysis. Several parameters are monitored such as: Sea Surface Temperature (SST), chlorophyll fluorescence, wind speed/ currents, air humidity, air temperature, air pressure, heat flux, sea level, salinity, satellite ocean color, elevation, and Surface freshwater flux (E-P).

Climate change and increasing nutrient pollution remain potentially causing factors for HABs to occur more often and in locations not previously affected and it may worsen in some regions as well under future climate scenarios. Therefore, it’s important for the scientific community to deepen its research about how and why they form and where they are, as well as to evaluate the direct and indirect associations between HABs, climate change, ocean acidification, and human health; so that they can reduce their harmful effects. An effective early warning system with greater accuracy, speed, and geographic coverage; against HABs has become indispensable for countries in the region, especially as climate change threatens to accelerate the manifestation of environmental conditions conducive for more frequent and deadly HAB occurrences.

(1) Dr. Jauad El Kharraz, Head of Research joined MEDRC in October 2015 to spearhead our Research Department, focusing on growing our network of expert-level technical, academic and policy specialists on a wide range of water issues. Hailing from Morocco, he spent 17 years in Spain and France earning his MSc and PhD in Physics as well as a diploma in enterprises management and strategies. He comes with a vast amount of experience, including his time as information & projects manager at the Euro-Mediterranean Information Water Information System (EMWIS), France, and Researcher at the Global Change Unit, Spain. He conducted and contributed to several EU projects and was representative of France at the Intergovernmental framework for EU Cooperation in Science & Technology (COST Action TN1301). He has published and contributed to hundreds of conferences, journals and reports in the fields of water management, drought, water information systems, remote sensing applications and scientific research.