Experts study what makes blue-green algae bloom

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
A crew with the purpose of testing and learning more about blue-green algae on the Caloosahatchee River near W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam in Olga Monday, May 17, 2021. Credit: WINK News.

Blue-green algae is showing up in new areas of Southwest Florida. Several groups worked together Monday to learn what can feed algae.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is funding the study for FGCU, Nova Southeastern University and the U.S. Geological Survey to see what feeds blue-green algae right into the Caloosahatchee River.

Taking a break from their bike ride, Donna Oakley and her husband sat and watched the blue-green algae at W.P. Franklin Lock & Dam on the Caloosahatchee in Olga.

“It’s really terrifying as to what this summer will bring,” Donna Oakley said.

After experiencing the water crisis in 2018, Oakley wants something done about the area’s water quality.

“It’s awful, and it’s scary, and something really does need to be done long-term,” Oakley said.

So you can imagine Oakley’s excitement to see groups running an experiment on present blue-green algae.

“What we’ve done is we’ve set up experimental mesocosms,” said Barry Rosen, a professor at FGCU’s The Water School. “Those are basically these large tubes we’ve put in the water. We can take some of the existing water right here in the river, put it into them, and then, we do different treatments.”

Those treatments include adding different types of nitrogen, phosphorous or nothing to see how the cyanobacteria responds.

“By understanding the physiological responses to nutrients and just what these guys are responding to in their natural environment will give us a much bigger, better picture of why they’re blooming or what caused to bloom, and how they’re able to persist through the season,” said Lauren Krausfeldt, a post-doctoral research scientist at Nova Southeastern University.

As for what the rest of the summer will look like, it’s too soon to tell.

“It just depends on the nutrients that flow in and if they become limiting, or another factor becomes limiting, a trace element, something like that, sunlight, rainfall, all of that,” Rosen said. “I’s a very dynamic situation, and we don’t know and it’s not so easy to predict.”

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