Australia’s Murray River declared ‘critically endangered’ 135 years after first reported toxic algal bloom

27 August 2013

George Francis documented the first case of animal poisonings from toxic blue-green algae.

George Francis documented the first case of animal poisonings from toxic blue-green algae back in 1878.

Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray-Darling River (Source: Geoff Codd).

Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray-Darling River (Source: Geoff Codd).

Blooms of toxic blue-green algae are common in stretches of the Murray River – which flows from New South Wales into South Australia, draining to the sea via Lake Alexandrina south-east of Adelaide.  Lake Alexandrina has the somewhat notorious fame of being the locality at which deaths of sheep were linked to algal toxins by the chemist George Francis.  The history of this particular event was presented to the delegates attending the 9th International Conference on Toxic Algae (ICTC) held in South Africa at the beginning of this month.

 

During the early 1990s the Murray Darling system was back in the news during the drought and deaths of many animals – events mirrored in South Africa and the UK during the same decade.  Just last week, parts of the river have been declared ‘critically endangered’ – a somewhat controversial political move according to some sources.  Others may think that attention to this important waterway is long overdue. We wait to see what happens.

 

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