When you think of algae you most likely picture the slimy green scum you saw floating on the lake last weekend, but do you know what algae really is or what it means for our bodies of water?
What Is Algae?
“Algae” is actually an informal term for a diverse group of organisms capable of producing photosynthesis. This encompasses a variety of both land and water plants.
Algae blooms are typical of algae that are present in freshwater eco-systems.
What Is An Algae Bloom?
An algae bloom is characterized as the rapid population increase of algae in an aquatic system. It’s a common water problem, and You will recognize an algae bloom by its green, brown, or bluish colour.
What Causes An Algae Bloom?
Typically, an excess of nutrients in the water causes algae blooms. These excess nutrients often come from lawn fertilizers, sewage runoff, or household cleaning products.
As algae blooms increase in size, other plants begin to die and decompose in the water, feeding more nutrients to the algae, allowing them to grow even more. It turns into a cycle.
Temperature can also play a factor in the presence of algae blooms. They are more likely to appear in the spring and summer, when temperatures begin rising and they receive more sunlight.
Lastly, algae prefer stable conditions. It will prosper in areas with little to no flow or movement.
Are Algae Blooms Harmful?
If these blooms grow out of control, they can turn into Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs), which have the potential to release dangerous toxins into the water.
These toxins can have harmful effects on humans and animals. It is important not to swim in or ingest water that may be contaminated by algae blooms. You could end up with a variety of symptoms including: rashes, headaches, nausea, fever, and even liver problems. For animals that drink contaminated water, it may even prove fatal.
The are in fact a problem worldwide!
From the Oceans Service website, “HABs have been reported in every U.S. coastal state” and may “powerful toxins that can kill fish, shellfish, mammals, and birds, and may directly or indirectly cause illness in people. HABs also include blooms of non-toxic species that have harmful effects on marine ecosystems.”
It further indicates “For example, when masses of algae die and decompose, the decaying process can deplete oxygen in the water, causing the water to become so low in oxygen that animals either leave the area or die.”
How Do You Get Rid of Algae Blooms?
There are no truly quick fixes for algae blooms. The best way to deal with this problem is to look at the source: the nutrients. First, figure out what is causing the excess nutrients in the water.
Are there large amounts of runoff entering the water? Is animal waste from nearby livestock entering the water? Are too many fertilizers and chemicals being used nearby? If you can reduce these effects, you will on your way to creating an environment less inviting for algae.
Algae blooms are becoming more and more prominent in bodies of water all over the country.
It is important that everyone does their part in reducing the nutrient rich toxins entering these bodies of water in an effort to reduce the atmosphere capable of enabling these algae blooms to over populate.
If there are algae blooms present, ensure you take the necessary precautions. Do not physically come in contact with, or ingest, any water that may be contaminated by Harmful Algae Blooms, and keep your pets and livestock from ingested the water as well.