Monday, July 9, 2018

Angling for less harmful algal blooms

Blooms bring to mind the emerging beauty of spring—flowers blossoming and trees regaining their splendor. Harmful algal blooms (HABs), however, bring to mind a toxic blue-green body of water and possibly a creature from the deep. These blooms, unlike spring flowers, are odorous, unpleasant, and potentially toxic. They can turn a fresh fish sandwich into a trip to the emergency room. They deter families from engaging in water-related recreational activities such as going to the shore. They discourage anglers from going fishing, which, in turn, affects those who depend on the local fishing economy.

The amount of harmful algae has rapidly increased in recent decades and it has adversely affected ecosystems from the Great Salt Lake, to the Great Lakes, to Great River, NY, and beyond. Runoff from crop and livestock production has increased the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in water, which has led to eutrophication—where plants grow, but fish die due to lack of oxygen. This process has had various negative impacts across space and time. In Lake Erie, a significant and ever-growing hypoxic zone (an area with low or no dissolved oxygen) has grown. This jeopardizes the local fishing industry and the livelihoods of those who depend on it. Mitigating the risks uses a lot of resources. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that it costs approximately $3 billion per year to deal with algal toxins in Ohio’s public water systems. In addition, these toxic bacteria pose public health risks to humans and animals—in 2010 alone, there were 9 probable or suspect illness cases from Lake Erie water.

Read more on the OUP Blog

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