Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Connor Barrett
AP Bio
Current Event
Miles of Algae and a Multitude of Hazards

Neuhaus, Les. "Miles of Algae and a Multitude of Hazards." The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 July 2016. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.

This article explains that apparent rising issue of algal blooms in North America, their effects on organisms and human life, and the ways in which they are prevented and dealt with. Algal blooms have been occurring for centuries - Native Americans learned not to go into bioluminescent waters because of their toxicity - but now they are starting to increase in frequency and size causing issues for many forms of life. The main impacts that humans have on algal blooms are still being quantified, but what seems to be clear is that they are heavily related to runoff from farms, feedlots, and municipal sewage systems. Algal bloom itself is cause by an over enrichment of lake water, which essentially means the algae is given so much nutrients it grows past a healthy amount. The effects of climate change, like warmer waters and more light penetration, are also to blame for the increase in the growth of algae. The reason these blooms cause so many issues is they contaminate the water they occur in. Specific types of algae produce toxins and, when consumed, can harm species in an ecosystem. Due to biomagnification this especially affects species near the top of the food chain. Not to mention it can turn a source of water for humans into one that has to be avoided. In order to stop the algal blooms effort has to be directed at both sides of the problem. We need to stop providing the algae with excess nutrients and we also need to develop systems to direct the algae into waterways that can safely handle and remove the large amount of algae. The first issue can be handled by producers and consumers - detergent companies removed phosphorus from their laundry detergents because it is a nutrient for algae. The second has to be tackled by government, which, when it comes to environmental protection, can be slow at best, but it essential to the livelihood of thousands of humans. The smell of decaying algae from algal blooms forced business in some areas of Florida to close during their busiest season and crab and clam fisheries were closed due to toxicity for more than four months on the West Coast, both of these issues causing serious trouble to people who rely on these businesses for income. While the exact cause and the exact solution to the algal blooms is not readily available, we still understand the basics of what we have to do in order to further prevent them, the only issue is organizing ourselves to do so.
Algal blooming has created severe issues for many people by limiting the waterways that they can use for various activities. A 33-square-mile algal bloom that originated in Lake Okeechobee, Florida crept down into the everglades eventually forcing waterside businesses to close due to the scent of decaying algae. More tropical climates are not the only ones affected either, a bloom of blue-green algae covered a 636 mile stretch of the Ohio river last year. Algal bloom even forced 400,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio to stop drinking tap water due to toxic algae. Algal bloom has serious costs to the areas it affects including damage to industries that rely on water in some way. In order to stop algal bloom we may have to start using different products that won’t contribute as much of the nutrients that algae feed off of, but it is a small price to pay in comparison to the issues caused by algal bloom.
The article was written very well, it presented facts directly, but also had examples of the damage algal bloom has caused. It also gave the scientific reason behind the increase in algal bloom and ways in which it can be prevented. The one area I wish the article did better in was explaining the specific processes involved with removing algae and preventing it instead of just naming the process and giving a brief description. Overall it was a well written article that thoroughly informed me about a topic I previously had not heard about.

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