Can toxic algae mess with agriculture


While this is a scientifically complex issue and there are a number of factors that have been linked to the blooms and their toxin production, there is a strong linkage between industrial agriculture and toxic algae outbreaks that we must not overlook.


What are the risks of toxic algae?

Toxic algae poses risks to people and pets who come into contact with the water either through recreation or household use such as drinking and bathing. Using surface water that has not been provided by a public water system can lead to exposure, as some household methods of treatment such as water filtration or chlorine may not remove cyanotoxins.

Can algae poison livestock?

When livestock swallow the algae while drinking the contaminated water, they can be poisoned. If algal poisoning is suspected, prevent access by stock and arrange access to a different water supply.

Is there toxic algae in the Finger Lakes?

Toxic algae blooms occur in water bodies across the country. Since 2017, each of the 11 Finger Lakes has experienced at least one outbreak of toxic algae, and for most of our lakes it has become a regular, annual occurrence.

What happens if your dog eats algae in your yard?

People who have been exposed to toxic algae can exhibit symptoms such as headaches, skin irritation, allergic reactions, stomach cramps, and vomiting. Pets, especially dogs that play in blooms, can be fatally sickened very quickly.


What does toxic algae affect?

Exposure to high levels of blue-green algae and their toxins can cause diarrhea, nausea or vomiting; skin, eye or throat irritation; and allergic reactions or breathing difficulties. Pet and livestock illness/deaths can happen if animals consume large amounts of water containing blooms, scums or benthic mats.

How does agriculture affect algae?

According to the EPA, “animal manure, excess fertilizer applied to crops and fields and soil erosion make agriculture one of the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the country.” It is this nutrient pollution and over-enrichment that is primarily fueling the harmful algal blooms.

How does toxic algae affect the environment?

Algal blooms can reduce the ability of fish and other aquatic life to find food and can cause entire populations to leave an area or even die. Harmful algal blooms cause thick, green muck that impacts clear water, recreation, businesses and property values.

Can toxic algae be used as fertilizer?

The algae, which can be produced at a rate of two to eight times faster than ethanol feedstocks, can be collected for conversion into biofuels or fertilizer.

Are algae important in agriculture?

Algae play an important role in agriculture where they are used as biofertilizer and soil stabilizers. Algae, particularly the seaweeds, are used as fertilizers, resulting in less nitrogen and phosphorous runoff than the one from the use of livestock manure.

How does algal fertilizer help in agriculture?

They are organic, natural renewable sources of energy that help to retain water and vital nutrients in the soil in order for the plants to grow properly. Now, it has been proved that algal biofertilizers are useful tools to increase the productivity of rice production in the sustainable agricultural system.

How does blue-green algae affect the environment?

When blooms of blue-green algae occur they interfere with other uses of the water, can affect human health and have far-reaching consequences for the environment and the economy. They affect water quality by causing undesirable tastes and odours, discolouration and unsightly scum. Blue-green algae can be toxic.

How do algal blooms disrupt energy flow in a pond ecosystem?

Sometimes harmful algal blooms create toxins that are detrimental to fish and other animals. After being consumed by small fish and shellfish, these toxins move up the food chain and can impact larger animals like sea lions, turtles, dolphins, birds and manatees.

How do algal blooms contribute to climate change?

Algal blooms absorb sunlight, making water even warmer and promoting more blooms.

Is algae good for your plants?

Aside from its nutritional content, algae offers other benefits when used as a fertilizer. Pond scum or algae is a living organism. As such, algae is rich in various nutrients that are beneficial for both plants and the soil. These nutrients can help improve the growth and yield of our plants.

Which algae can be used as fertilizer?

Some of the common marine algae which are being used as soil conditioner or biostimulant are Ulva, Enteromorpha, Caulerpa, Laminaria, Undaria, Sargassum, Turbinaria, Gracilaria, etc. (Fig. 16.1; Table 16.1). Some common marine algae being used as a source of organic fertilizers.

Can algae be used in compost?

Yes. Since pond scum and algae are living organisms, they are rich sources of nitrogen that break down quickly in the compost pile. Using pond scum as fertilizer also incorporates important nutrients, such as potassium and phosphorus, into the compost.

What will happen if we don’t rein in agricultural runoff and toxic algae blooms?

If we don’t rein in agricultural runoff and toxic algae blooms, then communities across the US will continue to experience the negative impacts to the environment, human health and the economy. Some of the economic impacts relate to our fisheries and drinking water supplies. In an article earlier this year, Tom Philpott wrote that the annual damages caused by toxic algae blooms nationwide, “everything from increased [drinking water] filtration costs to declines in fish populations,” amounts to about $2 billion in costs to the US economy.

Is industrial agriculture linked to toxic algae blooms?

Just as industrial agriculture is intimately tied to toxic algae blooms, it is also closely connected to climate change … which is inextricably linked to the toxic algae crisis. Confused? I’ll explain.

When will algae bloom in 2021?

It’s already a big year for algae outbreaks. May 29, 2021. It is not even June, yet algae blooms are already erupting in lakes, rivers and streams across the United States. Farming & Agriculture. Toxic Algae.

What are the sources of water that are threatened by the environment?

Lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams are critical sources of drinking water. But they’re threatened by toxic algae blooms, fueled by polluted runoff from farms and made worse by climate change.

How did the state of Lake Erie solve the algal bloom problem?

The states surrounding Lake Erie thought they had solved the algal bloom problem by eliminating phosphates in detergents that had been getting into Lake Erie via sewage treatment plants. These measures cut such phosphorus from nearly 30,000 metric tons per year to just over 10,000.

What year did the algal bloom in Lake Erie?

As a result, the year 2011 saw the largest algal bloom in Lake Erie in recorded history. Exacerbating the problem are nutrients that flow in with waste from large animal farms as well as, still, the treated sewage from cities like Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit.

How to cut back on runoff from farms?

The basic idea to cut back on runoff from farms is simple: apply only the right amount of fertilizer in a targeted way at the appropriate time exactly where it can do the most good for crops and have the least likelihood of simply running off in the rain.

Can drinking water kill algae?

Treatment requires adding chemicals and carbon to filter out the toxins. And drinking water cannot simply be boiled to kill off the algae because this can burst the cyanobacterial cells, releasing yet more toxin into the water.

What chemicals kill algae?

Chemical control. Algae can be killed with several chemicals, including Simazine, copper sulphate, calcium hypochlorite and Cupricide. For best results, the treatment used should be done when algal development is first noticed.

How to control algae in water tanks?

Algae in water tanks may be controlled by covering the tank to exclude light and reduce the temperature. Deep dams are better than shallow dams as they reduce algal use of the sun’s energy.

What algae produces blooms in dams?

The most spectacular blooms in fresh water dams are produced by a group of algae known as blue-green algae and several of these can produce toxins when conditions are favourable.

Why do fish die in algae blooms?

Fish deaths during algal blooms may be caused by the toxin in the algae, by the depletion of oxygen in the water, by the liberation of hydrogen sulphide and ammonia caused by cell decomposition or by clogging of the gills. Intoxicated fish are usually found dead or gasping at the water surface. Microcystis aeruginosa forms an emerald green scum in …

How do ponds and lakes get enriched?

The ponds or lakes involved have been found to be enriched in some way by the inflow of water from arable land or by animal excreta. Blooms of the blue-green alga Nodularia spumigena form a scum on sheltered shorelines when concentrated by winds or currents and otherwise can form a suspension in the water.

What should be done if algae poisoning is suspected?

If algal poisoning is suspected, prevent access by stock and arrange access to a different water supply.

Can blue green algae be poisoned?

Blue-green algae blooms thrive in warm, calm, shallow bodies of water where the water is hard, alkaline and rich in nitrogen, phosphates, carbonates, and organic matter. When livestock swallow the algae while drinking the contaminated water, they can be poisoned.

What is toxic algae?

‘Toxic algae’ and ‘harmful algal bloom’ (HAB) are colloquial terms for cyanobacteria, a naturally occurring organism which can cause serious human and animal health effects when outbreaks occur in drinking water supplies and swimming areas.

What is the term for algae that is toxic?

When people say “toxic algae” or “blue-green algae,” they are referring to cyanobacteria – microscopic organisms that live in water bodies but are usually not populated in sufficient density to be noticed by humans. When cyanobacteria grow in a concentrated area, it is often called a “harmful algal bloom,” “harmful aquatic bloom,” or “HAB.”.

Why is algae blooming in my lake?

Failing septic systems and manure from livestock, particularly near lakeshores or streams , can add additional nutrients to the water. This flush of nutrients, followed by warm, calm weather, can trigger the excessive cyanobacterial growth that leads to a toxic algae bloom.

What are the most common toxins in the United States?

Some of the most common cyanotoxins in the United States are microcystins, cylindrospermopsin, anatoxins and saxitoxins.

How to prevent algae blooms?

Reducing nutrients and runoff into waterbodies is an essential step to preventing and reducing toxic algae blooms. Inspecting and maintaining septic tanks and limiting or eliminating fertilizer use on lawns and agricultural fields are important ways to minimize the amount of nutrients on the landscape.

Where do toxic algae blooms occur?

Where and when do outbreaks occur? Toxic algae blooms occur in water bodies across the country. Since 2017, each of the 11 Finger Lakes has experienced at least one outbreak of toxic algae, and for most of our lakes it has become a regular, annual occurrence.

Why do bacteria grow in water?

High nutrient levels in water, sunlight, warm temperatures, and calm water can provide ideal growing conditions for bacteria, and occur with increasing frequency due to the effects of climate change ( NOAA ). Heavy storms can channel nutrients into the water, and increasingly warm temperatures create favorable conditions for toxic algae ( EPA ).

What are the most toxic algae?

Many types of toxic algae exist, but the most commonly reported are cyanobacteria (in freshwater) and dinoflagellates (in saltwater). When these algae bloom, or multiply, and release toxins, we have trouble.

What are the health problems caused by algae blooms?

Aside from the whole ecosystem collapse thing, the toxins released in algae blooms have also been linked to human health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, liver and kidney damage, tumor growth and even respiratory paralyses leading to death of humans, livestock and birds.

What would happen if we polluted the water in Toledo?

If we pollute it with nutrients, the effects could be devastating. Algae blooms sparked Toledo’s 2014 water crisis, contamina ting drinking water for more than 450,000 residents. Just a year before, the city spent $4 million to remove toxins from their water supply.

How to prevent algae blooms?

One of the best ways to prevent algae blooms is to control how we feed them. By managing the amount of nutrients ending up in water, we can take a big step toward curbing algae blooms. “The nutrients are something we can control right now, and the nutrients are the biggest part of the story,” says Wurtsbaugh.

Why is algae blooming so hard to manage?

This makes algae blooms hard to manage regionally, because one solution that works in what area may not work in another. Let’s unpack this slimy mess.

What do algae absorb?

Algae absorb the phosphorous and nitrogen found in nature. In a natural cycle, this is good for ecosystems: Algae converts sunlight into carbohydrates, plankton graze these carb-heavy algae, that plankton is eaten by other fish, those fish are eaten by bigger fish and on it goes up the food chain.

What are the economic effects of algae blooms?

Geological Survey points to economic damages from algae blooms like “loss of recreational revenue, decreased property values, and increased drinking-water treatment costs. ”. Additionally, commercial fishing and shellfish losses can span into the tens of millions of dollars.


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