Saturday, January 31, 2009

Algae to treat sewage

The concept of using Spirulina (Blue Green Algae) to treat sewage has been around for quite sometime.
Diatom Algae would be a better solution, since they are easier to dispose off.

Algae alleviates
Date: 14/03/1996
Source: Down to Earth

TagsBiotechnology, Blue-Green Algae, Environmental Science, South Africa, Urban Sanitation

HOUSING lower- and middle-class blacks, certain South African townships are seriously threatened by contamination caused by human wastes. With no sewage disposal system, the residents of these poor localities use buckets to excrete and once these are full to the brim, the waste is either dumped into streams or on the outskirts of the townships (ScientificAmericah, Vol 273, No'5).

The dumping of these wastes is proving to be a major threat to the environment, as not only are the streams affected by it but even groundwater sources lying just four metres below the surface are.being polluted. But help is on the way. Peter D Rose of the Rhodes, University in SouthAfrica is using an algae-based system to solve the crisis. A pilot plant constructed nearby will receive the waste emitted by 500-1,000 people, through a 1,00,000 ha area of ponds and channels filled with spirulina. The single-celled plant thriving on salty, nutrient-rich sewage offers solace to millions of helpless South. Ilicans. When exposed to sunlight, these plants seek higher dissolved oxygen levels and ingest most of the waste, and the remaining heavy metals and inorganic detritus settle at the bottom of the waterbodies.

Sewage processing by algae, an age-old method, is now being made more effective by advanced technologies. In the past 10 years researchers have concentrated on cultivating algal species which can do even bitter than the activated-sludge process practised by industrialised nations. The algal ponds do not require the equipment and power needed to run the conventional activated-sludge ponds. This reduces the building and operation costs by about a half. These plants do not consume much water, which is an important innovation for and South Africa. The resultant sludge produced is also lesser in quantity, making it easier to truck it down to landfill sites. Not only that, but most of the sludge is usually tonnes of dead algae, which once dried, makes good fertiliser and,fish-food additive. Another *advantage of algal ponds is that they do not stink, as the algae only produce a lot of oxygen and not other rotten smelling gases.

For Rose, the technology serves a dual purpose. It holds the potential for improving community sanitation and at a low cost, making it attractive to the needs of developing countries., "One of the future benefits of the process is that once you have this algal biomass, you might be able to engineer it to produce by-products that are more valuable than animal feeds," he says. His team recently studied another algae, Dunaliella salina, which when exposed to excessive salt or heat, produces large amounts of beta-carotene (a nutrient used by the body to make vitamin A).

Rose has also demonstrated the usefulness of the system in treating industrial waste, from tanneries. Tannery waste includes effluents like sulphides, ammonia and heavy metals, which not only give off bad odour but are also among the most dangerous pollutants to be emitted by any industry. Rose tried out the spirulina treatment on this waste, when he noticed that the plant flourished in a tannery's evaporation pond. The treatment systems tried out in Transvaal, Namibia and Cape Town tanneries show promise, as they have been successful in squelching odour and reclaiming water lost through evaporation. With the expected expansion in the tanning industry in South Africa, the algal-pond system is expected to be a major boon to the country.

Says Rose, "Rapid industrialisation in the Third World often happens at the expense of the environment, because the costs of First World technologies to remedy the situation cannot be borne simultaneously. To come up with a low- cost solution that results in something not just safe but useful - well, that is the first prize in biotechnology."

We had recently participated in the 5th Edition of at Bangalore on Jan 23rd and 24th.

The blog entry about all the companies that featured their products at is available at -

Mesocosm Experiments

Mesocosm Experiments are the right way to test Nualgi.

Mesocosm Experiments to Investigate Phytoplankton Competition

Several years of mesocosm experiments in the Norwegian fjords near Bergen (where Ehux is a common part of the phytoplankton succession) looked at the effects of nutrient and other factors on phytoplankton species composition. In particular, nutrients were added in different amounts and different ratios to different bags, and the resulting phytoplankton species numbers were counted. The mesocosm bags experienced natural temperatures and irradiances (they were suspended in the fjord water). The polyethylene mesocosm bags (90% light transmittance) were 4 metres deep, 2 metres in diameter, and constantly stirred. Each bag was initially filled by pumping in unfiltered fjord water, and so natural communities of zooplankton, bacteria and viruses were introduced at the beginning of each experiment. See (Egge & Hemidal, 1994) for a full description of the experimental set-up.

Many phytoplankton species were present in the bags, but the abundances of just two have been plotted against various parameters, in the diagram shown above. Concentrating solely on Ehux cell numbers, the diagram shows no correlation with nitrate, greater Ehux numbers at low phosphate, and a tendency for blooms to occur at higher temperatures and irradiances. Irradiances are averaged over the previous 5 days. Temperature and light will be highly correlated in the shallow mesocosm bags, and it is thought likely that the correlation with high temperature is probably because Ehux does better at high light, rather than because it competes better at high temperatures.

Ehux home page

Ocean acidification – why were we experimenting in Norway?

During the Bergen experiment, a blog of our daily activities was kept. This is now closed to further commenting, but a PDF archive of the entries can be downloaded here. The experiment was also mentioned on the CEH news site, and can be seen on both this page and, in more detail, on this one.

The effect of burning fossil fuels
It is well known that we are changing the climate by burning coal and oil. Everyone is aware of the greenhouse effect – increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air is trapping heat in the atmosphere. With a warmer planet, we know that the polar ice caps will shrink, releasing huge amounts of freshwater into the ocean. We expect sea level to rise, causing flooding of coastal areas; we expect the warmer ocean to increase the intensity of storms and hurricanes; we think it is possible (but we are not certain about this) that Northern Europe could get colder in an overall warmer world, because the major oceanic current – the Gulf stream – that brings heat to us, may became weaker or even switch off. There is much to be concerned about as we enter a high CO2 world.

One other feature of high CO2 in the atmosphere is that it makes the oceans more acidic. When CO2 dissolves in seawater, it forms carbonic acid. This is a basic consequence of chemistry – there may be sceptics who doubt that the greenhouse effect will change our climate – but they cannot argue with chemistry. The amounts of CO2 that we are putting into the atmosphere WILL change the oceans and WILL make them more acidic.

What do we mean by ‘more acidic’? Well, it will not mean that ships will dissolve in sea water, nor will it fizz like a cola drink. In fact, there will be a relatively small change. We measure acidity or alkalinity with something called pH, which is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration. The pH scale goes from 0 (very, very acid) to 14 (very, very alkaline). The oceans are currently slightly alkaline, with an average pH of about 8.2. How much will the pH change in the future? Within a century, we expect the pH of seawater to be about 7.8 – doesn’t sound much but is actually a huge change. pH is a logarithmic scale; since the beginning of the industrial revolution 200 years ago, CO2 entering the atmosphere and dissolving in the ocean has changed the pH by 0.1 units – but this small number hides a massive increase of about 30% in the hydrogen ion concentration. The important point is that apparently small changes in pH are caused by very large changes in hydrogen ion concentration.

Why does this matter?
The oceans have been slightly alkaline for a very long time. In the geological past, there have been times when oceans have been much more acidic than we predict for the next century but ocean pH has actually been very constant for a very long time – probably for as much as 20 or 25 million years. More important, never in the history of the planet has there been as rapid a change in pH as we are now seeing. We do not know how life in the oceans will adjust to this rapid change.

We already know that some marine creatures may disappear. Corals will not form so readily in a high CO2 world – their hard structures are made from calcium carbonate that is only laid down at current pH; it will dissolve at more acidic pH. Other organisms that are under threat are minute plants called coccolithophores which also have a calcium carbonate shell. These are the organisms that formed chalk (e.g. the white cliffs of Dover) in previous phases of the history of the planet – and are still important today forming vast blooms in the ocean that can be seen from satellites in space. In a high CO2 world, they too will have difficulty in making the calcium carbonate structures that they need.

These are obvious potential problems in a more acidic ocean but we know almost nothing about how the rest of the ocean will respond. We – humans – have only known a stable world. In the million or so years of our existence, mankind has always relied on a productive ocean. We get food from the sea but there are also other essential services that we take for granted. For example, about half of the oxygen that is produced by plants each year comes from the sea. In fact, it was the activity of minute plants in the ocean that first produced oxygen – about 3 billion years ago – that led to favourable conditions for animals to evolve. Today, the oceans are very important in regulating the whole planet – the oceans interact with the atmosphere, the atmosphere with the land to form an interdependency that maintains the whole planet – the Earth system. One of the most significant, yet invisible players in this control mechanism are microbes such as bacteria and phytoplankton.

Life in the ocean
Seawater does not look as though it contains much life. Mostly the water looks clear and blue and empty. There are some obvious plants, such as seaweeds, but they are restricted to a very narrow band around the coasts. However, in the vast majority of the oceans, the plants that produce so much of the oxygen that we need are tiny, microscopic algae called phytoplankton.

Other microbes, such as bacteria are also very abundant. In any litre of seawater, there will an average of one thousand million bacteria. They have a crucial role in maintaining the health of the Earth system. They recycle nutrients that are needed by plants; they breakdown waste organic matter; they degrade harmful compounds. In short, they maintain the planet. How will marine microbes respond to a more acidic ocean? We do not know – which why we are doing this experiment.

What is a mesocosm experiment?
A mesocosm has been defined as “an experimental system that simulates real-life conditions as closely as possible, whilst allowing the manipulation of environmental factors”.Basically, this means “a large enclosure that we can manipulate”.

The mesocosms that we are using in this experiment each contain about 12000 litres of seawater. This is a large enough volume to contain most of the bacteria, plants and animals (except fish) that interact together to form a community. They are also a manageable size that can be manipulated. By bubbling with air enriched with high CO2 (at 750 parts per million – the concentration that will be in the atmosphere in the year 2100 at the current rate of coal and oil burning), we have reduced the pH to 7.8 in just 3 days.

We can now begin to investigate how ocean acidification will affect microbial life in the seas. Will everything be the same as at current pH levels? In which case, we have little to worry about. Will undesirable phytoplankton and bacteria find the new conditions to their liking? In which case, how will that affect the future of the oceans? We do not have answers to these questions. But this experiment will begin to give us some clues about the future of the oceans in a high CO2 world.

Nualgi can reduce ocean acidification.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Books about Algae, Diatoms, Phycology, etc.

A few books on Algae, Diatoms, Phycology, etc.

The Algal Bowl: Overfertilization of the World's Freshwaters and Estuaries
David W. Schindler and John R. Vallentyne

The greatest threat to water quality worldwide is nutrient pollution. Eutrophication by nutrients in sewage, fertilizers and detergents is feeding massive algal blooms in rivers, lakes and estuaries, choking out aquatic life and outpacing heavy metals, oil spills and other toxins in the devastation wrought upon the world's fresh waters.Renowned water scientists, David W. Schindler and John R. Vallentyne, share their combined 80 years of experience to explain its history and science, and offer real-world solutions for mitigating this catastrophe in the making. A long-awaited replacement for Vallentyne's classic 1974 first edition, Schindler's fully revised edition has been expanded to cover estuaries as well as lakes. It is international in scope, drawing on examples including the North American Great Lakes, the Baltic Sea region in northern Europe and lakes in Asia and Africa.

Diatoms: Biology and Morphology of the Genera
F.E. Round , R.M. Crawford and D.G. Mann

This book presents a wide-ranging introduction to the diatoms together with an illustrated description of over 250 genera. Diatoms are important as perhaps the commonest group of autotrophic plants on earth and are abundant in all waters and on soils and moist surfaces. The introduction describes the diatom cell in detail, the structure of the wall (often extremely beautiful in design), the cell contents and aspects of life cycle and cell division. The generic atlas section is the first account of diatom systematics since 1928 (Karsten in Engler and Prantl: Die Nauturlichen Pflanzenfamilien) and each generic description is accompanied by scanning electron micrographs to show the characteristic structure. Most of the latter have been prepared specially for this work from the authors' own collections. The Diatoms will be the standard reference work on the group for years to come and is an essential reference volume.

Algae: An Introduction to Phycology
Christiaan Van Den Hoek , David Mann and Hans Martin Jahns
Algae are ubiquitous. A multitude of species, ranging from microscopic unicells to gigantic kelps, inhabit the world s oceans, freshwater bodies, soils, rocks and trees. To understand the basic role of algae in the global ecosystem, a reliable and modern introduction to their kaleidoscopic diversity, systematics and phylogeny is indispensible. This volume provides such an introduction. The text represents a completely revised and updated edition of a highly acclaimed German textbook which was heralded for its clarity as well as its breadth and depth of information. This new edition takes into account recent re-evaluations in algal systematics and phylogeny which have been made necessary by insights provided by the powerful techniques of molecular genetics and electron microscopy, as well as more traditional life history studies.

The Ecology of Phytoplankton: (Ecology, Biodiversity And Conservation)
Colin Reynolds
Communities of microscopic plant life, or phytoplankton, dominate the Earth's aquatic ecosystems. This important new book by Colin Reynolds covers the adaptations, physiology and population dynamics of phytoplankton communities in lakes and rivers and oceans. It provides basic information on composition, morphology and physiology of the main phyletic groups represented in marine and freshwater systems and in addition reviews recent advances in community ecology, developing an appreciation of assembly processes, co-existence and competition, disturbance and diversity. Although focussed on one group of organisms, the book develops many concepts relevant to ecology in the broadest sense, and as such will appeal to graduate students and researchers in ecology, limnology and oceanography.

Robert Lee
Phycology is the study of algae, the primary photosynthetic organisms in freshwater and marine food chains. As a food source for zooplankton and filter-feeding shellfish, the algae are an extremely important group. Since the publication of the first edition in 1981, this textbook has established itself as a classic resource on phycology. This revised edition maintains the format of previous editions, whilst incorporating the latest information from nucleic acid sequencing studies. Detailed life-history drawings of algae are presented alongside information on the cytology, ecology, biochemistry, and economic importance of selected genera. Phycology is suitable for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students following courses in phycology, limnology or biological oceanography. Emphasis is placed on those algae that are commonly covered in phycology courses, and encountered by students in marine and freshwater habitats.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Nualgi - schematic explaining the process

Nualgi closes both the Food - Sewage - Food cycle and O2 - CO2 - O2 cycle.
Thus its the most sustainable solution to both air pollution and water pollution.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

LOHAFEX - Iron Fertilization Expreiment

LOHAFEX: An Indo-German experiment to test the effects of iron fertilization on the
ecology and carbon uptake potential of the Southern Ocean.
The German research vessel “Polarstern” left Cape Town on 7th January with a team of 48 scientists (30 from India) and one cameraman on board to carry out the Indo-German iron fertilization experiment LOHAFEX (LOHA is Hindi for iron, FEX stands for Fertilization EXperiment) in the Southwest Atlantic Sector of the Southern Ocean. About 20 days will be required to reach the area and carefully select a suitable location, after which a patch of 300 km2 will be fertilized with 6 tonnes dissolved iron. This will lead to rapid growth of the minute, unicellular algae known as phytoplankton that not only provide the food sustaining all oceanic life, but also play a key role in regulating concentrations of the greenhouse gas CO2 in the atmosphere. The development and impact of the phytoplankton bloom on its environment and the fate of the carbon sinking out of it to the deep ocean will be studied in
great detail with state-of-the-art methods by integrated teams of biologists, chemists and physicists over a period of about 45 days. The cruise will end in Punta Arenas, Chile on 17th March 2009.

LOHAFEX is being jointly conducted by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Germany, and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), India, together with scientists from 9 other institutions in India, Europe and Chile. Prof. Victor Smetacek (AWI) and Dr. Wajih Naqvi (NIO) are co-Chief scientists. The experiment is part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two Institutes signed by the heads of their respective parent organisations, the Helmholtz Association, Germany and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India, in the presence of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Prime Minister of India in New Delhi on the 30th October 2007.
Planning for the experiment has been underway since 2005.

Five previous experiments carried out in the Southern Ocean, including 2 conducted from RV Polarstern, have induced phytoplankton blooms of similar size and composition to natural blooms fertilized by iron in settling dust and from melting ice bergs. However, in contrast to the land-remote regions previously fertilized, LOHAFEX will be located in a more productive region of the Southern Ocean inhabited by coastal species of phytoplankton that grow faster and are more palatable to the zooplankton, including the shrimp-like krill, than their spiny open-ocean counterparts. Krill is the main food of Antarctic penguins, seals and whales but
their stocks have declined by over 80% during the past decades, so their response to the ironfertilized bloom (if they are present in the experimental area) will indicate whether the alarming decline is due to declining productivity of the region, for which there is evidence.

Because it will last much longer, the LOHAFEX patch will also be twice the size of previous experiments to counteract the effects of dilution due to spreading over the 45 days of the experiment. Previous experiments have shown that effects on the environment are benign and short-lived.

Contrary to what is being claimed in some reports appearing in print and electronic media, LOHAFEX does not violate any existing international law. It is being erroneously reported that there exists a moratorium on Ocean Iron Fertilization (OIF) experiments placed by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD recommendation was aimed at preventing large-scale commercial OIF activities, making an exception for scientific experiments. That such experiments were to be restricted to coastal waters was perhaps an aberration. The resolution adopted by the Parties to the London Convention and Protocol of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) during a meeting held at London in October 2008 does, in fact, call for further research on OIF. It clearly states that legitimate scientific experiments should go on, without restricting such experiments to coastal waters. The IMO resolution, although not legally binding, prescribes that proposals for such experiments be evaluated on a case-to-case basis taking into account possible environmental impacts. In the case of LOHAFEX, this has already been done by NIO and AWI. There is no doubt that this small-scale experiment will not cause any damage to the environment. As an example, the level to which the surface-water iron concentrations will be enhanced during this experiment is an order of magnitude lower than natural iron levels in coastal marine environments. In fact, this concentration is so low that most analytical laboratories in the world cannot measure
it. In addition, the scale of the experiment will be of the same order as that of previous OIF experiments. It is clear that the groups opposing LOHAFEX are not only unaware of the legal status, they are also not knowledgeable enough about marine environments. Thus, they are indulging in disruptive activities merely to draw media attention to themselves.

Weekly reports on the progress of the experiment will be posted at the web sites of NIO and AWI.