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SCIENCE

This week: Sea invaders.

Text by Eve IRVINE

Latest update : 2009-08-19

It is boom times for algae, jellyfish and Asian carp- the sea creatures are on the increase much to the detriment of man.

Known locally as ‘sea lettuce’ a green algae has swamped the beaches of Brittany in France. As it rots it is giving off a gas that is said to have killed animals and harmed humans. Locals are blaming local farming for the increase in both the extent of the algae’s spread, and indeed its toxic levels.
 

For Patrick Dion, from the European Algae Research Centre (CEVA) “today measures are going to have to be taken around the world on all coastal areas to try and control all the nitrates and other fluids that have increased sharply in our coastal zones. In certain parts of the world we have increased agricultural activities sharply but the rise in the use of fertilizers.”

 

Indeed it’s not just France that is battling the sea monster, algae is increasingly covering coastlines across continents.

 

In August of last year Qingdao bay in China was hit with the worst algae blight in living memory. Over 10,000 volunteers were brought out to clean up the site where the Olympic sailing competitions were to be held.

 

And it’s not just macro algae that are a problem, the micro version which is a lot less visual is also spreading and adopting new homes. Greece for example now has toxic micro algae in its waters called Gambierdiscus toxicus. A native of the tropics these algae can infect fish, which then goes on to poison man.

 

Too much algae for man but plenty of plankton is a good thing for some including jellyfish. Plankton is their main food source the increase of pollution in the water which helps the development of seaweed means they have more to dine on. This mixed with other converging factors such as rising seawater temperatures and over fishing of tuna-the main predator of jellyfish, means that their populations’ are growing.

 

Asian Carp, a fish that was introduced to the United States in the 70s to help catfish farmers control the level of seaweed in their waters, are now posing problems as their numbers swell and they head for the Great Lakes threatening the ecosystem there.

 

Finally ENVIRONMENT looks at how man can make use of algae. Secreting oils that can be converted into bio diesel the green menace could be used to make an environmentally friendly fuel.

 

Date created : 2009-08-19

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