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Algal Bloom

Algal Bloom

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Published by Joanna Tengco

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Joanna Tengco on Jun 22, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 Algal bloom: the rapid excessive growth of algae,generally caused by high nutrient levels andfavourabl conditions. Blooms can result in deoxygenation of the water mass when large masses of algae die and decompose, leading to the death of aquatic plants and animals. Algal blooms are not anew phenomenon - Captain Cook recorded an algal bloom during his voyage in 1770! Algae are anatural component of aquatic environments, and even when they are abundant, it is not necessarily aproblem. Often a proliferation of microscopic algae can have beneficial effects on fisheries andaquaculture industries such as oyster or mussel farms by increasing the amount of food available.Macroalgae provide sheltered habitat for juvenile fish. In fact, the local fishery production in the Peel-Harvey estuary almost doubled in the 1970s when weed (macroalgae) growth in the estuary was atits peak, without a similar increase in fishing effort. However, when algal blooms increase in intensityand frequency, the results can cause community concern, health problems, and in some cases canbe catastrophic to the environment. The impacts are ecological, social and economic. Algal bloomsupset the delicate natural balance of plant and animal ecosystems in a waterway or wetland. Theycan degrade recreation, conservation and scenic values, and interfere with economic uses such asfisheries and tourism. Weed that washes ashore and forms rotting piles on beaches can causeoffensive smells and become a health problem for nearby residents as well as a nuisance to beachusers and fishers. An over-abundance of algae can choke a body of water such as a river, clogirrigation pipes, and block out the light other plants, such as seagrasses, need to produce food.Excessive weed growth can eventually kill seagrass beds. When an algal bloom dies the process of decay can use up all the available oxygen in the water, effectively suffocating other aquatic life. Thiscan kill fish, crabs and other animals, especially those that are attached or sedentary (do not movearound). Some species of algae produce toxins.
Effects of Harmful Algal Blooms
Harmful algal blooms negatively impact the food web by decreasing the amount of nutritious,edible phytoplankton that zooplankton and other primary consumers need to survive. Theseorganisms may then starve, leading to decreased food for secondary and higher order consumers. Increased cell concentration can block sunlight from primary producers under the
water’s surface as well, leading to decreased food and
oxygen levels. When the cells in thebloom begin to die it can also lead to decreased dissolved oxygen levels that can be lethal toother aquatic organisms and cause fish kills. Low dissolved oxygen can be made worse byovercast days and warmer temperatures.Human/Animal
Decreased recreational use and aesthetical value of waters due to toxicity, mats of algae, andthe smell when cells begin to die are only some of the problems associated with harmful algalblooms. Cyanobacterial blooms can contaminate drinking water with taste, odor, or toxiccompounds. The toxins produced during blooms are possible carcinogens to humans andcurrent research is studying the link between certain cyanobacterial toxins and neurologicaldisease. Harmful algal blooms have been known to kill waterfowl and livestock, and dogs havedied after eating mats of cyanobacteria or licking their fur after swimming in bloom infestedwaters. In some cases, humans have also died after exposure to harmful algal blooms.
What Types of Algal Blooms Can Phytoplankton Cause?
 Red tides are caused by phytoplankton that have a reddish pigment called peridinin.Most dinoflagellates, such as
, have this pigment. As a result,when there is a bloom of dinoflagellates, the ocean will generally turn red. This typeof tide is very common on both the east and west coasts as well as Florida and theGulf of Mexico.Green tides can be caused by
, which is a unicellular, photosynthetic algaefound throughout the world. Green tides can also be caused by macroalgae suchas
spp. and
Codium isthmocladum
, which have caused serious damageto many coastal regions When in bloom, macroalgae often outcompete seagrass and coral reefs. Thisresults in habitat loss for marine fish, less oxygen and sunlight for other organisms, and an ecosystemthat is more vulnerable to extinction and invasions.Brown tides are caused by the pelagophytes (another type of microalgae) suchas
 Aureococcusanophagefferens. Aureococcus
is a spherical, non-motile species thathas caused noticeable damage to the coastal ecosystems in which it occurs. Brown tides are commonlyseen in the northeast and mid-Atlantic US estuaries.

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