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What is an Algal Bloom?

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  • Last Updated : 01 Jun, 2022
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Biology is the study of life from a scientific approach. It is a huge natural science with some unifying themes that tie it all together as a single, coherent topic. Every cell in every species, for example, processes hereditary information contained in genes, which can be passed down to future generations. Evolution, which explains the unity and diversity of life, is another crucial concept. Life requires energy processing because it permits organisms to move, grow, and reproduce. Finally, each organism is in charge of its own surroundings.

Algal Blooms

An algal bloom is a type of algae that reproduces at a high rate. They primarily dwell in freshwater or marine water systems, and their pigments cause discoloration in the water, allowing them to be identified. The term algae refer to a group of aquatic photosynthetic organisms that can be microscopic or macroscopic in size. Algal blooms are microscopic algae that grow quickly and are unicellular in nature, and the kelp forest is one of the most prevalent macroscopic algae.

Phytoplankton will die if there is little or no food available in the water. When there is plenty of food, however, plankton cells can develop a huge number of flagella and reproduce quickly, far outnumbering the capacity of the surrounding water to absorb them. They eventually settle to the bottom and generate visible concentrations of organisms known as ‘red tides’ as they mature.

Algal blooms are caused by various nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that enter the aquatic system through various fertilizers and then form algal blooms. They have a variety of consequences on ecosystems, such as obstructing sunlight, depleting oxygen levels in the water, releasing harmful materials into the water, and so on. All of these negative impacts usually result in the depletion of aquatic species.

Effects of an Algal Bloom

When the ratio of available food to algae and plankton is exceeded, algal blooms occur. Algae can develop faster than phytoplankton can be absorbed into the surrounding water if this ratio is more than one to one. If there is an abundance of algae in one place, phytoplankton will begin to gather, expand, and settle out at the bottom of the water column.

If an algal bloom forms in a specific location, it will alter the water’s characteristics. An algal bloom, for example, can lower light levels beneath the blooms. This will have an impact on benthic (bottom-dwelling) invertebrates, which are more light-sensitive than planktonic (floating) invertebrates.

It’s worth noting that algal blooms can occur at a variety of water depths and are only known to have an impact on the waterways in which they occur. Invertebrates, for example, may find it difficult to travel down to shallower water if the algal bloom settles at the very surface. The extent of the phytoplanktonic food chain that can grow in the presence of this algae is determined by a water body’s ability to endure increased algal growth.

Causes of Algal Bloom

Algal blooms in aquatic bodies are caused by a variety of sources,

  • Run of Nutrients: The presence of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the water causes algal bloom. These nutrients are washed away by water from fields and farm areas where nitrogenous and phosphatic fertilizers are used heavily. Rain functions as a washing agent, washing all nutrients from the soil and depositing them in water bodies such as seas, rivers, and lakes. An algal bloom is caused by the accumulation of nitrates and ammonia in water bodies. The main cause of this algal bloom is the direct release of untreated industrial waste into bodies of water.
  • High Temperature: As the ozone layer depletes as a result of global warming, this is a major element in the explosive expansion of algal blooms. For proper algal bloom growth, the temperature must be just right. Because high temperatures cause rapid decomposition of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, bacteria may easily consume and develop these destroyed nutrients.
  • Presence of Dead Organic Material: Bacteria can be found in a wide variety of places, including aquatic bodies and the environment. These bacteria, like all other bacteria, promote the growth of algae microorganisms. Algal blooms grow faster when nutrients in the water combine with dead organic waste.
  • Large Mass of Water: Algal blooms require a large amount of water to grow. Less disruption in water propagation results in a massive algal bloom.

Harmful Effects of Algal Bloom on Aquatic System

  • Risk on Human Health and Life: Algal blooms produce poison in water bodies, which is then absorbed by humans, resulting in deadly ailments or diseases such as itching, a variety of skin problems, and so on.
  • Death of Aquatic Animals: Every living organism, whether it lives in water or on land, needs an adequate supply of oxygen. Similarly, algal bacteria require oxygen for survival and utilize the oxygen available in the aquatic system, resulting in oxygen depletion and the death of aquatic creatures.
  • Leads to Starvation: Algal blooms graze on vital nutrients in the aquatic system, causing famine in aquatic animals who do not receive adequate nutrients from the aquatic system, and eventually death of the affected organism.

Types of Algal Bloom

  • Fresh Water Algal Bloom: They form as a result of the deposition of additional nutrients, particularly phosphates, which come from fertilizers applied to agricultural land. In freshwater, increasing nutrient concentrations lead to the production of algal blooms. Freshwater aquariums may also absorb this bloom.
  • Ocean Bloom: Algal blooms of this type form an enormous water reservoir, such as the ocean. This algal bloom is mostly responsible for the death of aquatic species in the ocean. They mostly cause oxygen depletion in oceans, which has negative consequences for aquatic life.
  • Harmful Algal Bloom: A harmful algal bloom has a negative impact on the aquatic system, which can take numerous forms such as oxygen depletion, aquatic organism death, and so on.

Conceptual questions

Question 1: What is Algal Bloom?

Answer:

An algal bloom is a type of algae that reproduces at a high rate. They primarily dwell in freshwater or marine water systems, and their pigments cause discoloration in the water, allowing them to be identified. The term algae refer to a group of aquatic photosynthetic organisms that can be microscopic or macroscopic in size. Algal blooms are microscopic algae that grow quickly and are unicellular in nature, and kelp forest is one of the most prevalent macroscopic algae.

Question 2: What are the negative impacts of Algal Bloom?

Answer:

Algal blooms have the following negative consequences:

  1. Fish and other aquatic life’s capacity to find food is harmed, which can lead entire populations to flee or die of famine.
  2. Harmful algal blooms produce a thick, green muck that clogs up pristine waterways.
  3. It causes the demise of aquatic species by producing different poisons.
  4. Depletion of oxygen in the aquatic system.

Question 3: How does phosphorus get into the water?

Answer:

Agricultural fertilizer and manure runoff, which occurs when heavy rain washes soil and fertilizer into rivers and streams that eventually enter Lake Erie, accounts for more than 65 percent of the phosphorus that produces HABs. Sewage treatment plants, combined sewer overflows, water treatment plants, cleaning products, malfunctioning septic tanks, and home lawn fertilizers all contribute phosphorus.

Question 4: What is a Harmful Algal Bloom?

Answer:

HABs get their name from the fact that many of these blooms can create poisons (or toxins) that cause disease, irritation, and even death. HABs are not actual algae, despite the fact that they are usually referred to as “blue-green algae.” They’re cyanobacteria or blue-green algae.

HABs have been found in lakes, ponds, stormwater retention basins, rivers, streams, and reservoirs all throughout the world, including Lake Erie and other Pennsylvania waters.

Question 5: What makes cyanobacteria bloom?

Answer:

Warm water temperatures (over 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and high phosphorus concentrations in the water combine to generate harmful algal blooms. In cold weather, a high concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen will typically result in a diatom bloom; in cool weather, we can expect a green algae bloom; and in warm weather, we frequently witness blue-green algae blooms.

Question 6: How does climate change impact harmful algal blooms?

Answer:

Climate change will bring more rain and snow to the Great Lakes region, as well as higher average temperatures and flooding. More rain and snowfall increase nutrient runoff into the lake, fueling hazardous algal blooms. HAB-causing cyanobacteria also favor the warmer water that comes with rising air temperatures due to climate change. These changing conditions, when combined, can exacerbate the intensity of dangerous algal blooms.


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