On the recurrent Ulva prolifera blooms in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea



[1] A massive bloom of the green macroalgae Ulva prolifera (previously known as Enteromorpha prolifera) occurred in June 2008 in the Yellow Sea (YS), resulting in perhaps the largest “green tide” event in history. Using a novel index (Floating Algae Index) and multiresolution remote sensing data from MODIS and Landsat, we show that U. prolifera patches appeared nearly every year between April and July 2000–2009 in the YS and/or East China Sea (ECS), which all originated from the nearshore Subei Bank. A finite volume numerical circulation model, driven by realistic forcing and boundary conditions, confirmed this finding. Analysis of meteorological/environmental data and information related to local aquaculture activities strongly supports the hypothesis that the recurrent U. prolifera in the YS and ECS resulted from aquaculture of the seaweed Porphyra yezoensis (or nori) conducted along the 200 km shoreline of the Subei Bank north of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River mouth. Given the continuous growth in aquaculture efforts in the region, similar macroalgae bloom events, such as the summer 2008 event, are likely to occur in the future, particularly between May and July. This was confirmed by the 2009 bloom event in the same regions and the same period. The profit of the local P. yezoensis aquaculture industry (∼16,000 Ha in 2007) is estimated as U.S. $53 million, yet the cost to manage the impact of the summer 2008 U. prolifera bloom exceeded U.S. $100 million. Therefore, better strategies are required to balance the economic benefit of seaweed aquaculture and the costs of environmental impacts.