A Potential Solution to Harmful Algae Blooms

Samantha Zeitz

Toxic algae blooms are responsible for the death of millions of fish each year and damage to marine ecosystems. With climate change making them worse, researchers from the John Innes Centre and the University of East Anglia (UEA) are working to combat the algae blooms.

Algae blooms are very serious and occur more frequently when there are changes in water conditions, such as rising temperatures. Another leading cause is an increase in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that are used in agricultural fertilizers. The blooms produce toxins and can even change the colour of the water. They can grow to a point that the algae blooms kill marine life. Not only are the algae blooms becoming larger, but also they have begun appearing in places they’ve never been seen before.

The research teams have done field tests with hydrogen peroxide to reduce algae blooms. The results were published in the journal Biochemical Society Transactions. Their initial trials began on the golden algae, Prymnesium parvum. The results were successful and now they are finding positive trends when treating cynobacteria, also known as blue algae. On top of that, they found that the treatment did not affect fish and macroinvertebrates.

Protocols were already being put into place to control Prymnesium but they are now seeing that they can use lower doses of the chemical to treat blue-green algae. They found that the blue-green algae begin to respond to the treatment within two hours. Ecosystems in open waterways will be able to recover from the algae blooms within days to weeks after the hydrogen peroxide treatment.

However, Dr. Ben Wagstaff, one of the authors of the study from the John Innes Centre says that this treatment isn’t suitable for all algae blooms. It would not be practical in larger bodies of water but can still be used in smaller lakes. It would even be helpful in cases where bodies of water are forced off limits to water sports for long periods of time due to algae blooms.