Algal Blooms: What Impact Do They Have On The Environment?

by | May 12, 2023 | Environment

Home » Environment » Algal Blooms: What Impact Do They Have On The Environment?

Algae are tiny, plant-like organisms that form the base of the aquatic food chain. While they are essential to the ecosystem, excessive growth of certain types of algae can lead to harmful algal blooms (HABs). These blooms can have devastating effects on the environment, including fish kills, oxygen depletion, and the release of toxins that are harmful to humans and marine life. In recent years, HABs have become more frequent and severe, raising concerns about their impact on the health of our oceans and waterways. In this blog, we will explore the impact of algal blooms on the environment and the steps taken to mitigate their harmful effects.

What are Algal Blooms?

An algal bloom is a fast rise in the algae population in aquatic habitats, including in fresh and salt water, and is also known as a water bloom or a marine bloom. They grow in areas where two nutrients are abundant: phosphorus and nitrogen. Animal waste, fertilizers, and sewage generate these nutrients by runoff from the land.

Algal blooms are known to be mostly made of bio-toxins and to be distinguished by a characteristic colouring of water caused by a large number of pigmented algae cells. Green, red, brown, and yellow are among the colours. Cyanobacteria and red tides are the two most common forms of algal blooms. Some of the most prevalent kinds of eutrophication include algal bloom and water hyacinth, which decrease oxygen availability, resulting in animal life’s demise.

What are the impacts of Algal Blooms on the Environment?

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1. Endangering Human Health or Life

Toxins produced by algal blooms diminish the appropriateness of water for human consumption. Their enormous presence on the water and their well-propagating sequences cause rapid water contamination, providing a health risk to humans. When contaminated water touches human skin, it causes severe irritation, itching, and even skin disorders.

2. The Decline of Aquatic Life

Any living entity requires oxygen for respiration to survive. The oxygen dissolved in water is essential for fish and other aquatic organisms. Similarly, oxygen is necessary for the algal bacteria to survive. However, in plant life, rapid multiplication and dense development in a short period increase competition for oxygen, causing an imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem and the suffocation of marine species such as fish. More aquatic animal death means more food for algae, which leads to faster growth and, in the long run, the degeneration of marine life.

3. Dead Zones in the Ocean

Nutrient pollution can cause dead zones in water with little or no oxygen, making aquatic life impossible to sustain. These zones, also known as hypoxia, are created by algal blooms that consume oxygen as they die and degrade. Dead Zone lead to vast extinctions of aquatic life. As a result, the area surrounding the algal blooms will become a dead zone, complete with dead animal and plant life. The resulting lousy odour may affect the rest of the aquatic life, driving them away from the area.

More than 166 dead zones have been identified around the country, harming bodies of water such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest in the United States, encompassing 5,840 square miles. It happens every summer due to nutrient pollution from the Mississippi River Basin, which drains 31 upstream states.

4. Economic Pressures

The presence of algal bloom makes transportation on waterways difficult, leading to more expensive modes of transportation such as aviation. Countries that discovered the formation of algal blooms too late must seek alternate trade routes, resulting in economic losses. Furthermore, because the rise of algal blooms causes the death of aquatic life, there may be widespread losses for fishermen who rely on fishing as a source of income. Furthermore, the concept and procedure of treating algal blooms is an expensive affair that frequently necessitates millions of dollars in government funds.

5. Industry Pressures

Algal blooms harm the fishing and shellfish sectors, killing fish and polluting shellfish. Nutrient pollution may cost these companies tens of millions yearly. Furthermore, other businesses, such as food processing, rely solely on clean water from bodies of water to power their operations. This indicates that algal blooms will necessitate more significant water treatment costs to obtain clean water, resulting in higher overhead costs.

6. Tourism Industry Losses

The tourism industry suffers severely due to the dense growth of algal blooms on natural recreational water surfaces. The resulting foul odor and dead zones mean there are no fish to watch or available methods to steer the water.

7. High Domestic Water Utility Bill

People require water for consumption, whether algal blooms are present or not. The town will need to invest in water treatment processes to remove the toxins produced by algae blooms. In rare situations, the significant growth of algal blooms may result in a scarcity of fresh drinking water if the town or community relies solely on the contaminated source to distribute water. All of this raises the treatment price and the water demand, resulting in drastically higher water utility rates for home consumers.

8. The Impact of Algae on the Food Chain

Toxins produced by hazardous algal blooms can damage fish and other creatures. Toxins ingested by small fish and shellfish migrate up the food chain and can affect larger animals such as sea lions, turtles, dolphins, birds, and manatees. Even if algal blooms are not poisonous, they can harm aquatic life by blocking sunlight and clogging fish gills.

9. Ozone Pollution

Nitrogen compounds in the atmosphere, such as nitrogen oxides, contribute to developing ground-level ozone, a component of smog that can impair visibility. Wind and weather can transport ozone hundreds of miles from urban to rural locations. Ozone pollution can cause tree damage and harm the look of plants and picturesque locations.

10. Property Value Decline

Clean water can enhance the value of a neighbouring home by up to 25%. However, waterfront property prices can fall due to the unsightly sight and odour of algae blooms.

11. Acid Deposition

Acid rain is caused by nutrient pollution in the air, which harms lakes, streams, estuaries, forests, and grasslands across the country.

What is the solution to the Algal Blooms?

1. Utilisation of Hydrogen Peroxide

The compound is an effective treatment for algal blooms. This is appropriate for smaller bodies of water, such as large ponds or small lakes, to allow for easy monitoring of the compound’s influence and aquatic life.

2. Treatment with Ultrasound for Bloom

This method uses ultrasonic sound waves in water bodies to detect and control algal blooms, which can reduce algae growth by up to 90%. All of this has been tried and evaluated. As a result, no harm is done to aquatic life because it is 100% ecologically benign, with the added benefit of minimal operational expenses. This treatment monitors large bodies of water and can determine whether or not an algal bloom is present based on the current conditions.

3. Optimal Fertilizer Use

Farmers must employ fertilizers to increase crop yields by supplementing insufficient nutrients. However, depending on the nutrients delivered, it can be done optimally using top dressing or spraying choices. Farmers should seek advice from agricultural specialists on the type and amount of fertilizer used. Using the best practices and applying the appropriate amounts of fertilizer can provide both optimal crop development and balanced toxicity or nutrient content in the soil.

4. Pollution and Water Waste Reduction on a Personal Level

Individual activities such as reducing waste, recycling, and reusing must begin to attain the global environmental conservation goals of minimal pollution. When everyone at home, work, or school does this, it can help to reduce the total nutrient load in water bodies and even ease the water treatment process. Finally, it can help to reduce the dense growth of algae in the water.

To Conclude

Algal blooms are caused by nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that enter the aquatic system through fertilizers and generate algal blooms. They have a variety of consequences on ecosystems, such as obstructing sunlight, depleting oxygen levels in the water, secreting harmful materials in water, and so on. All of these adverse effects, most of the time, result in the depletion of aquatic creatures.

It is important to remember that algal blooms can occur at a wide range of water depths and are only known to have an impact on the waterways in which they appear. The ability of a body of water to resist increasing algal development dictates the size of the phytoplanktonic food chain that can grow in the presence of this algae.

 

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