Monday, August 10, 2009

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Blue-green Algae

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, occur naturally as part of the food chain and are found all over the world. They are structurally similar to bacteria but, like plants, use sunlight to grow. They are everywhere in Florida’s freshwater and brackish habitats, such as lakes, rivers, and estuaries. Blue-green algae are also common in Georgia, Texas and Alabama. Some – not all – blue-green algae can produce toxins that can contribute to environmental problems and affect public health. You can find more information on health aspects of blue-green algae from the Florida Department of Health. Scientists know little about what causes the algae to turn toxic and even those blue-green algae that are known to produce toxins do not always do so.

There are no short-term solutions to correcting the situation; this is a naturally occurring phenomenon that has occurred throughout history. However, Florida monitors blue-green algae closely because nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) pollution appears to intensify blue-green algae outbreaks. The state is taking measures that in the long term will reduce nutrient loading and improve water quality.

Algal blooms were documented in Florida’s coastal waters as early as the 19th Century. In 1998, recognizing the need to assess the status of toxic microalgae in Florida, the state legislature approved funding for the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force. The Task Force was created to address potential concerns regarding microalgae, including blue-green algae, through monitoring and investigation. Information on blue-green algae and other harmful algal bloom events is available from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and from the Florida Department of Health Aquatic Toxins Program.

Rather unfortunate that people are fatalistic about blue green algae blooms and are not willing to look for logical solutions to the problem.

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