Wednesday, August 26, 2009

OMEGA - offshore membrane enclosures for growing algae

NASA bags algae, wastewater in bid for aviation fuel
By KATIE HOWELL, Greenwire
Published: May 12, 2009

NASA is applying space technology to a decidedly down-to-earth effort that links the production of algae-based fuel with an inexpensive method of sewage treatment.

The space agency is growing algae for biofuel in plastic bags of sewage floating in the ocean.

Jonathan Trent, the lead researcher on the project at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, said the effort has three goals: Produce biofuels with few resources in a confined area, help cleanse municipal wastewater, and sequester emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide that are produced along the way.

"Algae are the best source of biofuels on the planet that we know about," Trent said in an interview. "If we can also clean [wastewater] at the same time we create biofuels, that would great."

The process is amazingly simple. It starts with algae being placed in sewage-filled plastic bags, which in true NASA style have a nifty acronym, OMEGA, for "offshore membrane enclosures for growing algae."

The OMEGA bags are semipermeable membranes that NASA developed to recycle astronauts' wastewater on long space missions. In this case, the membranes let freshwater exit but prevent saltwater from moving in.

Then the algae in the bag feast on nutrients in the sewage. The plants clean up the water and produce lipids -- fat-soluble molecules -- that will be used later as fuel.

Just as in algae biofuel production on land, the floating OMEGA bags use water, solar energy and carbon dioxide -- which in this case is absorbed through the plastic membrane -- to produce sugar that algae metabolize into lipids.

Oxygen and fresh, cleansed water are then released through the membrane to the ocean.

"It's energy-free," Trent said. "It doesn't cost us anything. Osmosis works by itself."

If Nualgi is used Diatoms can be grown in any Bay like area of the ocean without much investment in infrastructure.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Song for the Ocean

one million voices sing for change...

We are all connected by the Ocean.
Our everyday actions affect the world in which we live, and all creatures sharing our planet.
I wrote “Song for the Ocean,” so that, through singing, we can raise our awareness and get involved in creating positive environmental change.

My goal for the “Song for the Ocean” project is to get a a minimum of 1 million people to join me in singing this song. As we sing, let’s hold the vision of a healthy planet, and make a commitment to the the Earth and all it’s creatures, to be a part of positive change in whatever ways we can. You can sing this song on your own, in a group, a chorus, any way you can imagine. Videotape yourself or a group singing “Song for the Ocean” and upload your video to YouTube...I will add you to my favorites! I am going to keep a list of all people who sing on the song, so e-mail your names, and you can be one of the million voices!

Sunday, August 23, 2009




- Eutrophication is a slow ageing process during which a lake or estuary evolves into a bog or marsh and eventually disappears. During eutrophication, the lake becomes so rich in nutritive compounds (especially nitrogen and phosphorus) that algae and other microscopic plant life become superabundant, thereby choking the lake and causing it to eventually dry up.

- Eutrophication is accelerated by discharges of nutrients in the form of sewage, detergents and fertilizers into the ecosystem.
Eutrophication can be a natural process in lakes, as they age through geological time. Estuaries also tend to be naturally eutrophic because land-derived nutrients are concentrated where run-off enters the marine environment in a confined channel and mixing of relatively high nutrient freshwater with low nutrient marine water occurs.

- Lakes and reservoirs can be broadly classified as ultra-oligotrophic, oligotrophic, mesotrophic, eutrophic or hypereutrophic depending on the concentration of nutrients in the body of water and/or based on ecological manifestations of the nutrient loading. In general terms, oligotrophic lakes are characterized by low nutrient inputs and primary productivity, high transparency and a diverse biota. In contrast, eutrophic waters have high nutrient inputs and primary productivity, low transparency, and a high biomass of fewer species with a greater proportion of cyanobacteria than in oligotrophic waters.

- Eutrophication can also cause Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), which can harm fish and shellfish, as well as the people who consume them. Some algae can cause negative effects when they appear in dense blooms, while others have potent neurotoxins and need not be present in large numbers.

- In the 90s, the regions of Asia and the Pacific had more lakes and reservoirs with eutrophication problems (54%) than Europe (53%), Africa (28%), North America (48%) and South America (41%).
Because of eutrophication, Lake Victoria in Africa has become turbid to the point that brightly coloured fish species cannot see each other clearly enough and they have begun to interbreed.

- In China, Lake Dianchi near Kunming and Lake Taihu near Wuxi both suffer from extreme eutrophication. In these lakes vast areas are covered by dense algal blooms and fish-breeding has been almost totally abandoned because there is no oxygen for them to breath, especially in autumn. Almost all native water plants and many fish species have been killed. Snails die from lack of oxygen in the bottom water and in addition the poor water quality makes it very difficult to supply water for domestic use that meets legal standards.
Removing nutrients in the form of fish biomass is perhaps the best solution to eutrophication.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Animal waste in USA

Friday, August 21, 2009

Canada's sickest Lake - Winnipeg

Algal Blooms’s-sickest-lake/

Globally, toxic algal blooms—in both lakes and coastal systems—have been increasing in number, frequency and size. A toxic bloom in the Yellow Sea at Qingdao nearly halted the sailing events at last summer’s Beijing Olympics. A year earlier, a rank toxic bloom choked legendary Lake Tai, China’s third-largest freshwater lake, leaving more than two million people without drinking water and killing fish. Meanwhile, a 7,770-sq.-km oxygen-starved “dead zone” has spread in the Gulf of Mexico where the Mississippi—chock full of fertilizers after draining the U.S. Midwest—spills into the ocean, causing an explosion of toxic algae and bacteria, killing fish and threatening the Gulf’s $2.8-billion fishery. Scientists say such zones are spreading, and could one day make up one-fifth of the world’s oceans.

Nualgi can stop harmful algal blooms.

Have you thanked a phytoplankton today?

Have you thanked a phytoplankton today?
August 20, 9:16 PM
Charleston Green Living Examiner
Patti Romano


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Source of nutrients in Gulf of Mexico

Source of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in the Gulf of Mexico

Source Nitrogen (%) Phosphorus (%)

Corn and Soyabean crops 52 25
Other Crop 14 18
Pasture and range 5 37
Urban and population-related sources 9 12
Atmospheric deposition 16 -
Natural Land 4 8

Farmers use fertilzers to grow more crops and part of this is used to feed fish.
The fertilizer run off causes harmful algal bloom and this reduces fish population.

Instead if Nualgi is used the excesss fertilizer in water can be converted into fish feed via Diatom Algae and fisheries use of corn or soya meal as fish feed will reduce.

Diatoms are also source of biodiesel.

Thus many problems can be solved at one go.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Red Tides update

Red Tide off coast of Maine, USA.

It appears that the Harmful Algal Bloom phenomenon is becoming more of a problem worldwide. One impact that we at Ocean Power Magazine are pondering is what would be the impact to wave or tidal power generating equipment if ensconced in an algae bloom? Just another hurdle that will have to be traversed on the path to ocean power generation. Researchers and scientists at NOAA , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and many others around the world, continue to monitor and study this harmful but sometimes beautiful phenomenon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blue Legacy - Louisiana: Downstream dead zone

Blue Legacy - Louisiana: Downstream dead zone

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dead Zones

Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences

Diaz and Rosenberg write “There’s no other variable of such ecological importance to coastal marine ecosystems that has changed so drastically over such a short time as dissolved oxygen.”

We can only reply.
There is no solution that increases Dissolved Oxygen as dramatically as Nualgi and Diatom Algae.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

World’s dust bowl - Diatom dust - Africa to South America

World’s dust bowl

Changing ecosystems: Recent studies highlight the potential for changes in the quantities of desert dust, and the consequent alterations in ecosystems functioning in places far flung from the sources of desert dust. So, half of all the Amazonian dust supply is from the Sahara desert, writes Meera Iyer

We already know that climate change might drastically alter landscapes around the world. Interestingly, one of the prime agents of changing ecology might be dust from deserts, and often where you least expect it.

Several studies have shown that the Sahara desert is the world’s largest source of desert dust. A mind boggling 240 ± 80 million tons of dust is transported from the Sahara desert to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond every year.

Dustiest place in the world
Within the Sahara, the Bodélé Depression, on the northeastern end of Lake Chad, is notable as the single largest source of dust, responsible for about half of all the dust in the Sahara! This seems extraordinary, considering that the Bodélé Depression is only 150 km2, or about 0.2 per cent of the area of the Sahara desert.

The Bodélé owes its status as the world’s premier dust source to its past history, its unique topography and the resultant weather patterns.

Today’s Lake Chad is but a poor shadow of the vast lake that existed here about 7,000 years ago, at which point Mega-Chad was the world’s biggest lake. Diatoms – a type of algae found in water bodies – thrived here.
The remains of their silicaceous shells were deposited in thick layers on the lakebed, forming a soft rock called diatomite, which was exposed once the lake began drying. This very fine-grained mineral is easily dislodged and transported by the strong near-surface winds here (called the low-level jet) which are accelerated and funnelled by mountains on the north and southeast of the Bodélé.

About 50 million tons of all the dust transported out of Africa reached the Amazon rainforest every year. And about half of all the Amazonian dust supply is from the Bodélé, making it the largest supplier of dust to the Amazon.

For most of us, dust is merely something to be periodically cleared off surfaces, an irritant that we would gladly be rid of. But Saharan dust is in fact a lifeline for the rainforest. The soils of the Amazon basin are typically nutrient-poor, so that the rainforest trees are able to maintain their nutrient balance only through the inputs of nutrient-rich desert dust from the across the Atlantic Ocean.

Impacts of climate change
Two recent studies highlight the potential for changes in the quantities of desert dust, and the consequent alterations in ecosystem functioning in places far flung from the sources of desert dust.

In a paper published in late July in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Richard Washington from the University of Oxford, along with colleagues from Universite Blaise Pascal in France and the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research in Germany, outline how the Bodélé Depression could be considered a tipping element for climate. Taking off from Malcolm Gladwell’s enormously popular book on tipping points – about how “little things can make a big difference”, a tipping element in the earth’s climate describes components of the Earth system that may pass a tipping point.

To determine how climate change may impact the production of dust from the Bodélé, Washington et al.’s paper focused on the controls on the amounts of dust produced, viz., controls on the strong near-surface winds, and on the amounts of diatomite available for erosion.

The authors used leading models of the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison for the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to estimate the effects of climate change on the Bodélé.

Based on these climate models, and with the caveat that there is a great deal of uncertainty in the models, the authors expect an increase in rainfall over the region. Lake Chad has in fact emptied and refilled more than three times in the last 3-4000 years, with dust output dropping to zero during wetter periods and increasing once again during dry periods.

However, the authors aver that the rainfall increases predicted by the climate change models would be insufficient to cause a drop in dust production.
Instead, the researchers believe that climate change could in fact increase the amounts of Bodélé dust produced over the coming century.

This is based on climate models that also predict an increase in near surface wind speeds in this region in the later decades of the coming century.

Impact on alpine ecosystem
A second paper, also in PNAS, examines the impacts of increasing desert dust on the alpine ecosystem of the San Juan mountains, Colorado, USA. Dust here comes largely from the southwestern United States, with minor inputs from Asia. In the last two hundred years, the introduction and expansion of livestock rearing and railways in the southwest has led to an astonishing 500% increase in dust deposition in the San Juan.
To understand the possible implications of such an increase, Heidi Steltzer from Colorado State University and colleagues, set up experimental plots in the mountains, adding desert dust to some plots, removing naturally arrived dust from a second set and leaving a third set of test plots unchanged.

They found that increased dust deposition caused snows to melt 7 to 13 days earlier. Interestingly, climate warming in the region also advances snowmelt, but because early snowmelt caused by dust is not accompanied with higher temperatures, it has different biological consequences. The researches found that it led to synchronised growth and flowering across species, a result which could impact ecosystem functioning, including nutrient cycling, and inter-species interactions and hence species compositions.

Global Plankton Blooms

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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Diatom Story - Video

A 20 minute video about Diatoms and Nualgi is available on youtube in two parts.

The links are -

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Earth's Biogeochemical Cycles

Earth's Biogeochemical Cycles, Once In Concert, Falling Out Of Sync

ScienceDaily (Aug. 4, 2009) — What do the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone," global climate change, and acid rain have in common? They're all a result of human impacts to Earth's biology, chemistry and geology, and the natural cycles that involve all three.

On August 4-5, 2009, scientists who study such cycles--biogeochemists--will convene at a special series of sessions at the Ecological Society of America (ESA)'s 94th annual meeting in Albuquerque, N.M.

They will present results of research supported through various National Science Foundation (NSF) efforts, including coupled biogeochemical cycles (CBC) funding. CBC is an emerging scientific discipline that looks at how Earth's biogeochemical cycles interact.

"Advancing our understanding of Earth's systems increasingly depends on collaborations between bioscientists and geoscientists," said James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences. "The interdisciplinary science of biogeochemistry is a way of connecting processes happening in local ecosystems with phenomena occurring on a global scale, like climate change."

A biogeochemical cycle is a pathway by which a chemical element, such as carbon, or compound, like water, moves through Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere.

In effect, the element is "recycled," although in some cycles the element is accumulated or held for long periods of time.

Chemical compounds are passed from one organism to another, and from one part of the biosphere to another, through biogeochemical cycles.

Water, for example, can go through three phases (liquid, solid, gas) as it cycles through the Earth system. It evaporates from plants as well as land and ocean surfaces into the atmosphere and, after condensing in clouds, returns to Earth as rain and snow.

Researchers are discovering that biogeochemical cycles--whether the water cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the carbon cycle, or others--happen in concert with one another. Biogeochemical cycles are "coupled" to each other and to Earth's physical features.

"Historically, biogeochemists have focused on specific cycles, such as the carbon cycle or the nitrogen cycle," said Tim Killeen, NSF assistant director for geosciences. "Biogeochemical cycles don't exist in isolation, however. There is no nitrogen cycle without a carbon cycle, a hydrogen cycle, an oxygen cycle, and even cycles of trace metals such as iron."

Now, with global warming and other planet-wide impacts, biogeochemical cycles are being drastically altered. Like broken gears in machinery that was once finely-tuned, these cycles are falling out of sync.

Knowledge about coupled biogeochemical cycles is "essential to addressing a range of human impacts," said Jon Cole, a biogeochemist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., and co-organizer of the CBC symposium at ESA.

"It will shed light on questions such as the success of wetland restoration and the status of aquatic food webs. The special CBC conference sessions at ESA will explore future research needs in environmental chemistry, with a focus on how global climate change may impact various habitats."

Earth's habitats have different chemical compositions. Oceans are wet and salty; forest soils are rich in organic forms of nitrogen and carbon that retain moisture.

The atmosphere has a fairly constant chemical composition--roughly 79 percent nitrogen, 20 percent oxygen, and a 1 percent mix of other gases like water, carbon dioxide, and methane.

"Seemingly subtle chemical changes may have large effects," said Cole.

"Consider that global climate change is caused by increases in carbon dioxide and methane, gases which occupy less than ½ of one percent of the atmosphere. Now more than ever, we need a comprehensive view of Earth's biogeochemical cycles."

The study of coupled biogeochemical cycles has direct management applications.

The "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico is one example. Nitrogen-based fertilizers make their way from Iowa cornfields to the Mississippi River, where they are transported to the Gulf of Mexico. Once deposited in the Gulf, nitrogen stimulates algal blooms.

When the algae die, their decomposition consumes oxygen, creating an area of water roughly the size of New Jersey that is inhospitable to aquatic life. Protecting the Gulf's fisheries--with an estimated annual value of half-a-billion dollars--relies on understanding how coupled biogeochemical cycles interact.

A better understanding of the relationship between nitrogen and oxygen cycles may help determine how best to use nitrogen fertilizers, for example, to avoid dead zones.