Hurricane happy

 
Published: Tuesday 30 November 1999

Hurricanes, like Floyd, which lashed the eastern coast of USA in mid-September, may take a heavy toll on human settlements near the coasts, but there is good news for algae, going by the findings of Marilyn Fogel of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and her colleagues. The researchers discovered that the photosynthetic activity of phytoplankton off the coast of North Carolina increased five-fold in the four days following Hurricane Gordon in 1994. The researchers point out that the increased activity was caused by nutrients from sediments and deeper water stirred up by the storm. Russel Cuhel of the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, member of the team, says: "The influence of the hurricane on mixing reached as deep as 150 metres. It is likely that these events also stimulate productivity in open ocean systems" ( Limnology and Oceanography , Vol 44, p1359).

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