Red, White, and Blue-Green Algae: Harmful Algal Blooms Block Summer Plans, and Could Become More Common Without Action

Recent harmful algal blooms in the Northeast US have thwarted holiday plans for many lake-goers, and climate change might make such blooms more common. If we could have tighter control on the nutrients flowing into the lake, we may have a chance at preventing blooms in the future.

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Possible link between oil spill clean ups and harmful algal blooms

Oil spills are damaging the marine environment. One method for cleanup is applying dispersants to break up oil slicks on the water surface, making oil easier to decompose. Unfortunately, researchers started to observe harmful algal blooms after the application of these dispersants. The scientists in this study wanted to understand what was causing these blooms.

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Are Harmful Algal Blooms a New Concern For Coral Reefs?

Coral reefs are marine invertebrates that create a diverse ecosystem that supports sea life, fish communities, and humans. Corals have a symbiotic relationship with the algae that grows inside their shell, providing coral food through photosynthesis, and allowing the coral to expand its reef. However, coral reefs are already under pressure from a changing ocean climate, human pollution, overfishing, and development, all which can stress the coral and their algae counterparts. Harmful algal blooms (HABs), a consequence of human derived nutrient pollution, were investigated to determine their impact to coral reef or fish communities. Reef and fish communities at two sites in the Gulf of Oman were surveyed before and after a HAB in 2008. One site saw coral reef abundance reduced from 53% before the bloom, to 6% after, and both sites had a significant decrease in total fish biomass. These results demonstrate that HABs have a negative impact on both coral and fish communities. HABs cloud surface waters, preventing the coral’s algae from photosynthesizing and providing food for corals. Once the HAB dies, it decays and depletes the oxygen along the seafloor, suffocating corals. These changes to corals impact fish, as a struggling coral reef cannot provide food and shelter to attract sea life and fish communities. These impacts are felt by the nearly 30 million people that depend on coral reefs for their livelihood. Nutrient pollution to coastal waters resulting in HABs, along with other stressors, need to be addressed to safeguard coral reef ecosystems for the future.

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City phosphorus, country phosphorus: can we mitigate P in different environments?

Phosphorus is essential for life, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing. In excess, phosphorus can cause algal blooms, creating dead zones in bodies of water. How do we prevent phosphorus from entering water systems? Katrina Macintosh and her team did a comprehensive review to track phosphorus from diffuse sources to find out.

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Seaweed as far as the eye can see

In the center of the Atlantic Ocean lies the Sargasso Sea. The brown seaweed, Sargassum, gives the Sea its name; However, in the past decade this belt of Sargassum has been exploding. During certain seasons, the Sargassum belt has expanded from West Africa to the Americas. Beached seaweed has led to numerous problems and concerns for much of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Research led by Dr. Mengqiu Wang from the University of South Florida used previous data to determine what makes these seaweeds take over the ocean in order to better predict when these blooms may occur.

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Cover Crops: Good for Water Quality?

Cover crops have been a popular management strategy to reduce nutrient runoff from agriculture. However, evidence suggests that some cover crops may in fact release nutrients, instead of keeping them out of the water. One study explores whether five types of cover crops release phosphorus, and how that may impact water quality in the important Great Lakes region.

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Evidence from the sediment: Lake Baikal diatom community changes in response to shifting environmental conditions

Located in Siberia, Russia, Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world (Figure 1). Similar to other waterbodies around the world, both big and small, Lake Baikal is exhibiting changes in the community composition of its primary producers in response to climate change induced changes in surface temperatures and nutrient inputs. In this study, scientists examine community composition shifts in a group of primary producers known as diatoms and examine the influence of climate change on this shift.

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Making Amends with Wetland Soils

Wetlands provide ecosystem services, which are services that are free to humans and extremely valuable to the environment. In particular, wetlands can improve water quality through denitrification. Denitrification eliminates nitrate, a nitrogenous compound often found in pollutants, by converting it into gaseous forms of nitrogen and emitting these gases into the atmosphere. Because of the wetland losses happening largely due to human activity, efforts are being made to restore wetlands in an attempt to recapture the ecosystem services they provide. Recent research has investigated the capacity of restored wetland soils to perform denitrification compared to that of natural wetland soils.

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