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Baltic Sea threatened by algae blooms

Posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010 at 6:36 pm by
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An outburst of phytoplankton has overtaken areas of the Baltic Sea, essentially suffocating marine lifeforms by quickly using up all of the available oxygen. Although phytoplankton (microscopic algae) is constantly using up oxygen in the water, it is only lately that this has reached critical rates.

This recent algae bloom is fed (just like in our tanks) by phosphates and nitrates supplied by agricultural runoff from farms as well as sewage discharge. These conditions have led the Baltic sea to be home to seven of the worlds ten “dead zones”. The entire marine ecosystem is effected by these blooms, as conditions are unsuitable for many species. (makes you think twice about complaining about a little hair algae in your tank).

Peter Westman, of the conservation group WWF says that overfishing compounds the situation, as species that would consume zooplankton are removed in great numbers, leading to increased algal growth. In addition to the devastating ecological impact, this algal bloom, which is potentially toxic to humans, leaves a layer of green slime that starves seaweeds of light, and fouls tourist beaches.

World Water Week, an annual meeting concerning water-related issues, yielded an initiative called the Baltic Sea Strategy, attempting to coordinate revitalization efforts by eight European Union members.

[via National Geographic]

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