Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products Alter Lake Food Webs

The pharmaceutical and personal care products we use daily enter aquatic environments. Phytoplankton, or microscopic algae, are important pieces of the aquatic food chain. Phytoplankton exposed to pharmaceutical and personal care products in two Norwegian lakes responded quickly and dramatically – altering their community structure. The effects of these compounds on phytoplankton suggest these compounds have the potential to alter the food webs of entire aquatic ecosystems.

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What gives glacier algae their wild colors?

When a British expedition reported seeing pink mountain snow in 1818, the London Times said: “Our credulity is put to an extreme test upon this occasion, but we cannot learn that there is any reason to doubt the fact as stated.” Two hundred years later, we now can confirm that pink snow (“watermelon snow”) is real and it is caused by certain types of algae. But why is it that snow algae take on such distinctive red and purple colors? And how does this connect to melting glaciers or global sea level rise?

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