Just recently, algae blooms were observed in the West Coast of North America near Monterey Bay, with experts noticing that it might be the largest bloom ever in history as seen via satellite. Monterey Bay’s waters were tested with unprecedented levels of domoic acid, forcing wild and farmed shellfish operations from California to B.C to stop harvesting until the bloom clears.
What exactly are these algae blooms and why are they toxic to marine life and the environment surrounding it? This post gives you everything you need to know about toxic algae from important background information to how they form as well as affect marine and human life.
What are toxic algae?
Toxic algae, also known as harmful algal blooms (HABs), is a term for a natural phenomenon caused by overgrowths of algae in the water. It has become a major environmental problem especially in the recent years due to climate change. Some of these produce dangerous toxins also known as blue-green algae or cyanobacteria which kill marine life and harm the environment surrounding the affected water. However, even non-toxic algae blooms hurt the environment and local economies.
Toxic algae or HABs are often called red tides for giving the water a rusty-crimson color. But in truth, HABs are connected to tides and can turn water into many colors, from red to green to blue-green.
What causes toxic algae?
Toxic algae blooms overgrow the normal and “healthy” algae under these conditions: warm water temperature, low water depths, and nutrients. This is why most HABs form during summer when the water is warm. It also occurs in polluted water bodies and lakes where water depths aren’t that deep. Nutrient pollution of the water (made up of nitrogen and phosphorus) are caused by human activities that worsen the HABs problem.
What’s more alarming is that toxic algae have been found to create their own favorable condition to thrive, making the efforts to know how toxic algae form and how to control them more challenging unless one is already aware of how to prevent toxic algae overgrowth.
What are the effects of toxic algae?
Toxic algae have severe impacts on human health, the aquatic ecosystems including marine life and the economy.
- produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sick and potentially kill marine life and animals as well as humans that have eaten affected marine life or drank affected water.
- create dead zones in the water – no marine life can survive in such a toxic environment. The aquatic ecosystem will be severely impaired.
- raise drinking water’s treatment costs. Toxic algae affect water and in turn, water can seep in and indirectly affect drinking water.
- will indirectly affect all industries that depend on clean water.
How do we prevent toxic algae from forming?
Since HABs are naturally occurring phenomena, what we can do is to control the conditions that exacerbate HABs into forming at alarming rates. Controlling the environment using chemicals isn’t always the best solution; naturals methods are preferred and deemed the best options as they keep the delicate balance in the environment intact.
Our sludge removal system is one of the most natural algae removal products in the industry. Nutrient pollution occurs mostly from sludge in the bottom of lakes and ponds, and these leads to toxic algae overgrowth. With the LLMO sludge removal system, beneficial bacteria are used to help sludge decomposition faster, decreasing bad bacteria and increasing oxygen in the water.