Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Harmful algae taking advantage of global warming

07.04.2008
You know that green scum creeping across the surface of your local public water reservoir" Or maybe it’s choking out a favorite fishing spot or livestock watering hole. It’s probably cyanobacteria – blue-green algae – and, according to a paper in the April 4 issue of the journal Science, it relishes the weather extremes that accompany global warming.

Hans Paerl, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences Professor and co-author of the Science paper, calls the algae the “cockroach of lakes.” It’s everywhere and it’s hard to exterminate – but when the sun comes up it doesn’t scurry to a corner, it’s still there, and it’s growing, as thick as 3 feet in some areas.

The algae has been linked to digestive, neurological and skin diseases and fatal liver disease in humans. It costs municipal water systems many millions of dollars to treat in the United States alone. And though it’s more prevalent in developing countries, it grows on key bodies of water across the world, including Lake Victoria in Africa, the Baltic Sea, Lake Erie and bays of the Great Lakes, Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and in the main reservoir for Raleigh, N.C.

“This is a worldwide problem,” said Paerl, Kenan Professor of marine and environmental sciences in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“It’s long been known that nutrient runoff contributes to cyanobacterial growth. Now scientists can factor in temperature and global warming,” said Paerl, who, with professor Jef Huisman from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, explains the new realization in Science paper.

“As temperatures rise waters are more amenable to blooms,” Paerl said.

The algae also thrive in wet, soggy ground in areas experiencing periodic floods, like the U.S. Midwest. And in a drought, like the Southeastern United States is experiencing now, other algae and aquatic organisms die off, cyanobacteria thrive, waiting to explode

Warmer weather has also created longer growing seasons, and it’s enabled cyanobacteria to grow in northern waters previously too cold for their survival. Species first found in southern Europe in the 1930s now form blooms in northern Germany, and a Florida species now grows in the Southeastern U.S. Others have appeared recently places as far north as Montana and throughout Canada.

Fish and other aquatic animals and plants stand little chance against cyanobacteria. The algae crowds the surface water, shading out plants – fish food – below. The fish generally avoid cyanobacteria, so they’re left without food. And when the algae die they sink to the bottom where their decomposition can lead to extensive depletion of oxygen.

These cyanobacteria – blue-green algae – were the first plants on earth to produce oxygen.

“It’s ironic,” Paerl said. “Without cyanobacteria, we wouldn’t be here. Animal life needed the oxygen the algae produced.” Now, however, it threatens the health and livelihood of people who depend on infested waters for drinking water or income from fishing and recreational use.

These algae that were first on the scene, Paerl predicts, will be the last to go ... right after the cockroaches.

Clinton Colmenares | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu
http://www.unc.edu/ims/paerllab/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>