Cyanobacteria destroying Hawaiian coral reefs, diatoms as predictors of environmental collapse – and other stories

26 November 2012

The impact of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) on coral reefs north of the Hawaiian island of Kauai has been pronounced as being of ‘epidemic’ proportions.  Possible impacts on other biota associated with the corals have also been noticed.  No indication as yet as to which genus of cyanobacterium is responsible.

Some years ago, efforts to clean up eutrophication in Lake Erie were heralded as a major success after phosphorus levels fell to new lows.  The success was short-lived and the algae are back, along with a new threat, Asian carp.

At least 136 invasive species — plants, fish and mussels — have forever changed the lakes. But it’s the potential 137th invader that officials fear the most.The Asian carp wants nothing more than to spread through the Great Lakes and continue its feeding frenzy. Though a live fish has yet to be found, DNA tests suggest that they might already have infiltrated Lake Erie.

In New Zealand, the Otago Regional Council has announced deteriorating water quality in the Kakanui Catchment.

The report, which is to be tabled at ORC’s natural resources committee meeting on 29 November, indicates that if these trends were left unchecked, they would lead to nitrate accumulation in the Kakanui aquifer. In addition, the high nutrient (NNN) concentrations provided by the lower Kakanui River and Waiareka Creek (dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP)) could stimulate the proliferation of algae in the Kakanui estuary. The report noted that land use and farming practices were likely contributors to the problem. Dairy farming had increased in recent years, and some farms did not have sufficient effluent storage.

Also in the land of the world’s best rugby team, Rotokare Lake (South Taranaki) has been closed due to an algal bloom.  Dannevirke, on the North Island (a town that has been the home of a large number of prominent NZ sports personalities, is suffering from a algal-induced taste problem in their water – actually reported as “algae in the water supply” !

Australia’s Murray-Darling management plan was signed into law with 24-hours of the Minister receiving the draft!

And, finally, if anyone was in any doubt as to the power of diatoms as a tool to track and predict climate change and even eutrophication, this report should put your mind at rest!

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