Posted by: Vicki Burns | November 1, 2013

Stakes Are Rising in Blue-Green Algae Threats

In the past week there have been two news items about research related to toxins in some blue-green algae blooms. Both items seemed to raise the stakes on the potential threats associated with growing algal blooms in Manitoba and around the world.
The first news item came from researchers at Oregon State University and the University of North Carolina. Essentially they were describing the increasing toxicity of some algal blooms and they predicted that the strains of blue-green algae(cyanobacteria) that contain toxins will become more prevalent in comparison to the strains that do not contain toxins. Given that these toxins can have serious negative impacts on liver function and are now associated with motor neuron disease, like ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, this is very important and alarming news.
The second news item that caught my attention came from researcher, Dr. Sally Everson, from Tweed Shire Council in Australia. Her research has shown that the toxins from some algal blooms can stay in the water long after the visible signs of blue-green algae have disappeared. Apparently the toxins can actually drop out of the bloom and linger in the cleaner water that is lower in the water column. This has significant ramifications for communities that draw their drinking water from lakes that experience blue-green algae blooms.

blue-green algae at Minaki, Ontario 2011 - courtesy of Todd Sellers

blue-green algae at Minaki, Ontario 2011 – courtesy of Todd Sellers

So in my estimation, the risks associated with not taking bold and decisive action now to curb the growth of blue-green algae, are increasing. We need to create a much stronger swell of support for the investments required to reducing our exposure to these threats. With each day that passes our potential costs are growing.

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