Monster in Our Waters
Most people living near a body of water have been affected by or heard of harmful algal blooms (HABs), commonly known as red tide or blue-green algae. We Long Islanders are no exception, having experienced HABs in both our freshwater lakes and our ocean beaches. HABs occur when excessive amounts, or blooms, of algae, produce toxins in water as a result of nutrient pollution, or eutrophication. This oversupply of nutrients acts as a food source (a kind of all-you-can-eat buffet) for the algae that allow them to grow out of control and cause serious damage to the local ecosystem, including:
killing or sickening wildlife and humans;
decreasing light and oxygen available to wild- and plant life.
Increasing water temperatures, due to climate change, also play a role in causing HABs to proliferate (see the interview with Dr. Anderson for more).
From Where Do Excess Nutrients Originate?
Runoff from the land, affected by such routine activities as washing our cars, watering our lawns, and fertilizing our yards, can all increase nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms. Faulty septic tanks are another significant source of nutrient pollution.
How Do We Conquer the Monster?
Don Anderson, Ph.D., one of the world’s experts on HABs, has answers. Dr. Anderson is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and an international leader in the growing area of HAB research.
For more information on the eutrophication process, click HERE.
For in-depth information on the damage caused by HABs, click HERE.
For more information on HABs, click HERE.
For an update on harmful algal blooms check out this Facebook page HERE.
To help inform future generations about algal blooms, click HERE to see Monster in the Water: Fighting Back Against Harmful Algal Blooms, a new children’s environmental book by Dylan D’Agate.
To learn more about the green tide issues in China, click HERE.