Tag Archives: Green Algae

Global warming could spur toxic algae, bacteria in marine environment

Red Tide

By Karin Zeitvogel, AFP

Global warming could spur the growth of toxic algae and bacteria in the world’s seas and lakes, with an impact that could be felt in 10 years, US scientists said Saturday.

Studies have shown that shifts brought about by climate change make ocean and freshwater environments more susceptible to toxic algae blooms and allow harmful microbes and bacteria to proliferate, according to researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In one study, NOAA scientists modeled future ocean and weather patterns to predict the effect on blooms of Alexandrium catenella, or the toxic “red tide,” which can accumulate in shellfish and cause severe symptoms, including paralysis, in humans who eat the contaminated seafood.

“Our projections indicate that by the end of the 21st century, blooms may begin up to two months earlier in the year and persist for one month later compared to the present-day time period of July to October,” said Stephanie Moore, one of the scientists who worked on the study.

But the impact could be felt well before the end of this century, as early as 2040, she said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Changes in the harmful algal bloom season appear to be imminent. We expect a significant increase in Puget Sound (off the coast of Washington state where the study was conducted) and similar at-risk environments within 30 years, possibly by the next decade,” said Moore.

In another study, NOAA scientists found that desert dust, which contains iron, deposited into the ocean from the atmosphere could lead to increases of harmful bacteria in the seawater.

Researchers from the University of Georgia found that adding desert dust to seawater significantly stimulated the growth of Vibrios, a group of ocean bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis and infectious diseases in humans.

“Within 24 hours of mixing weathered desert dust from Morocco with seawater samples, we saw a huge growth in Vibrios, including one strain that could cause eye, ear and open wound infections, and another strain that could cause cholera,” said Erin Lipp, who worked on the study.

The amount of iron-containing dust deposited in the sea has increased over the last 30 years and is expected to continue to rise, based on precipitation trends in western Africa that are causing desertification.

Rising precipitation in some parts of the world and lack of rain in other parts has been blamed on climate change by some experts.

Global warming has also been blamed for rising ocean temperatures, and “a warming ocean, which we know is happening, increases the likelihood of disease that affects both wildlife and humans,” NOAA administrator Janet Lubchenco told AFP.

Unhealthy oceans impact not only human and animal health but also affect countries’ economies, said Lubchenco, noting that US coastal states are home to eight in 10 Americans and generated 83 percent of US GDP in 2007.

Red Tide
The Florida “red tide” occurs almost annually along portions of the state’s Gulf Coast, causing beach and shellfish closures and negatively impacting Florida’s tourism industry. Just one harmful algal bloom event can impose millions of dollars in losses upon local coastal communities. Image courtesy of P. Schmidt, Charlotte / NOAA

Original Article

Red Tide in New York Harbor, in Coastal Care

Algae Blankets China Beaches, in Coastal Care

Wave of Toxic Green Beaches, France, Coastal Care

Algae Blankets China Beaches

Green beach – Qingdao, China. Photo source: ©© Philip Roeland


Local authorities and residents in the popular tourist destination have been struggling over the summer to remove a large mass of green algae that has washed ashore. As of late June, the algae bloom, or green tide, covered more than 170 square miles (440 square kilometers) of coasts south of Qingdao.

The algae blanketing the city’s beaches belongs to a species of marine plankton known as Enteromorpha prolpifera…

Read Full Article, National Geographic

Exploring Algae as Fuel

Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care


In a laboratory where almost all the test tubes look green, the tools of modern biotechnology are being applied to lowly pond scum.

Foreign genes are being spliced into algae and native genes are being tweaked.

Different strains of algae are pitted against one another in survival-of-the-fittest contests in an effort to accelerate the evolution of fast-growing, hardy strains.

The goal is nothing less than to create superalgae, highly efficient at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into lipids and oils that can be sent to a refinery and made into diesel or jet fuel…

Read Full Article, The New York Times.

The Second Life of Green Algae

Photo source: ©© Tristan Schmurr

The second life of green algae
English Translation

Harmful when covering the beaches, green algae can be valued. If the application on fields for fertilization purposes, remains the largest market, other sectors are growing.

No less than 60,000 m3 of green algae have been collected in Britain last year. It is a huge slap for the communities in charge of coastal cleanup, a terrible hindrance for the tourism industry, as tourists have fled the beaches. But what happens to these tons of plants once removed from the beaches? Several options exist to benefit from this invasive material.

An effective fertilizer
The spreading is the main outlet of Ulva lactuca and concerns 80% of the collected “green lettuce”. This technique involves depositing fresh seaweed, rich in nitrogen, on the agricultural parcels as fertilizer. It is effective and inexpensive as no prior treatment is required. The method has its limitations, however: the transfer from the beach to the land must be fast, to keep the algae’s freshness. For this very reason, the destination should not be too far from the pickup location. At La Lieue de Grève in, les Côtes d’Armor, “the trucks do not go beyond a 25 km radius” says Briant Gwenaëlle, coordinator of the local watershed.

The farmer using this type of fertilization is also required to sign an agreement to carefully monitor all added levels of nitrogen induced by algae, and to record these levels in order to respect the soil pH, said Gwenaëlle Briant. For the same reason, the same parcel may be fertilized with green algae only once every five years.

The other major outlet for Ulva is to be mixed with other green plants to produce compost. It is a more expensive solution as external service providers are necessary. Nevertheless, this solution is particularly popular in the late spring, when fertilization is not possible in the fields covered with crops. Composting green algae however, has the advantage of giving an economic value to a free commodity. And contrary to traditional fertilization, the compost can be used by everyone without constraints.

A difficult product to capitalize on
Interesting from a composition standpoint , however, algae are difficult to use at the industrial level, since their production is irregular and unpredictable. And many challenges exist in their treatements .
They must be treated within 3-4 days after reaching the beach to avoid rotting. They are hardly transportable since they contain so much water. Sand also must be removed after algae are picked up on the beach, a tricky process. But once reduced to flour consistency or cake, the ulva sees its value explode: 2000-3000 per ton.

Once “stabilized” green algae is eligible for a number of industrial processes. The green algae may be used in the manufacture of many products. Cosmetics, chemicals, materials such as cardboard or plastics, food for animals, even for humans.

Another possible avenue, is production of energy. “The process of methanation, in which the algae, in contact with bacteria, give off gas and thus produce energy, is already studied in Japan. The problem is that its performance is not great and it emits sulfur, corrosive to the facilities, “said Yannick Lerat. The production of bioethanol, a fuel made of green algae, is also the subject of several investigations in France. “For now, the yield is only 10 or 20%. It should be up to 50%, “notes the expert.

Investments remain limited in this area because “it is difficult to build an industry on a resource where eradication is ultimately sought after ” says Yannick Lerat. “We prefer to invest in preventive action, but a business model is beginning to emerge.” The key to success, however, relies on the coordination of actions by various local authorities, says he. “What is lacking is a supply chain organization. If everyone does things in his corner, it does not take off. ”

Original Article: “La deuxième vie des algues vertes” Le Figaro

China launches armada to head off algae plume; Guardian UK
Chinese authorities have dispatched a flotilla of more than 60 ships to head off a massive tide of algae that is approaching the coast of Qingdao.The outbreak is thought to be caused by high ocean temperatures and excess nitrogen runoff from agriculture and fish farms.

France’s continued fight against toxic algae

Algues vertes

Algues vertes : les coûts de ramassage explosent

By Marion Brunet, Le Figaro

Original Article

Green Algae: the exploding costs of collection
Google English Translation
The green algae are back on the front of the stage. Beyond their potential danger it is, this time, the costs of collection and treatment that are implicated. In a note published last Friday, the Brittany Regional Chamber of Auditors reported that these expenditures have doubled over the past three years.

The proliferation of green algae is favored by the presence of nitrate in soils, which are linked to intensive farming and agricultural fertilizers.

Brittany represents 7% of the French arable land and farms 50% of France’s pigs and poultry.

The costs of collection and processing of green algae for Brittany Region, have increased from 345,063 to more than 800,000 euros between 2007 and 2009. The volumes have picked up from 27,150 to over 60,500 m3. Not to mention the national anti-algae plan introduced last February by the Government, which should also lead, in the coming years, to an increase in spending with its requirement for systematic collection of green algae, and treatment in controlled stations.

400,000 euros in 2009 to 1,400,000 this year
This information was confirmed by the urban community, Trégor-Lannion (Côtes d’Armor), which has already collected 7,000 tons of green algae on its beaches since early May. “The collection is carried seven days a week, including weekends and holidays. We do not want to take any risk on our beaches, “said the urban community President, Joel Le Jeune. While last year we have picked up 26,000 tons, we believe that we will reach 35,000 tons this year. This will inevitably result in increased costs of collection and reprocessing.”

It is reported that 400,000 euros were spent last year, and spending could rise up to 1.4 million euros in 2010.
As in previous years, expenditures include the collection of the “sea lettuce” (Green Algae), and from now, as required by the Government’s plan, they will include the cost of processing green algae in sewage.

The Government is committed through its national plan, to allocate Brittany’s Region a budget of 700,000 euros for the collection and processing of “sea lettuce”. However, this figure is well below the 1.4 million euros that the scourge could cost to Lannion-Trégor and region. “That is not enough” given the number of municipalities affected by green algae.

Legal proceedings contemplated against the State
Faced with this pollution, the urban community-Lannion Trégor, has no other recourse but prosecuting the State.

“At the Department of Ecology, we recognize that costs will increase, as pickups need to increase. We are not against the principle of co-financing”, says a collaborator of Minister Jean-Louis Borloo. But we will obtain the Region Executive to draw, by the end of the year, the balance sheet to see if there is indeed a cost overruns.” Status quo then. The town of Lannion-Trégor has until July 15 to prosecute.

Original Article, CTV

The Government’s Plan

Video, Les Algues Vertes, Thalassa

Wave of Toxic Green Beaches, France; By Sharlene Pilkey

Saint-Michel-en-Greve, Brittany, France

A Wave of Toxic Green Beaches, Saint-Michel-en- Greve, Brittany, France

By Sharlene Pilkey

With beaches and coastlines all over the world already under attack from sea level rise, pollution, mining, driving, seawall construction and human development encroachment, another menace is mounting an assault. Humans are behind this one too. According to various media reports in France, and the United Kingdom, lethal green algae has invaded heavily used vacation beaches in Brittany, northern France and along England’s coastline from Wales to Portsmouth. Layering in deep piles, up to a meter thick with hard crusting on top, these stinking masses are ticking gas bombs.

Vincent Petit, a 27-year-old veterinarian, was riding horseback on a Brittany beach near Saint-Michel-en-Greve, when his horse broke through the crust and went down. A cloud of hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) was released from the rotting algae, reportedly killing the horse within 30 seconds. Fortunately a tractor was nearby which was used to clear away algae and drag Mr. Petit to safety. He was rescued in an unconscious state and hospitalized. Now he is suing the local municipality responsible for beach maintenance.

On June 22, 2009 on the Cotes d’Armor, a 48 year old maintenance worker, clearing the green algae from the beach, was stricken and died apparently from a heart attack, but in recent medical reports the lethal green algae is suspected in his death.

This lethal algae on the French Coast was apparently a product of over fertilization of nearby fields with drainage emptying into the ocean. Towns along the Brittany coastline have hired bulldozers to scrape the seaweed away, but the algae keeps right on coming back.

Earlier, on a beach close to where Mr.Petit’s horse died, two dogs strolling by were killed by the sulfur dioxide. In a strange coincidence indicating the global nature of this problem, the death of two dogs running on an algae encrusted beach was recently reported from north of Auckland, New Zealand, not to mention the four dogs killed in 2009 by toxic beach algae near Elkton, Oregon.

The more one learns about this beach hazard, the more apparent its global scope becomes. Last year, the Chinese government brought in the Army to clear away the slimy green growths so the Olympic sailing competition could be held and so observers could safely view the event. In Italy, near Genoa, a sixty year old man had to be taken to the hospital this year because he swam in algae infested water, and last year in Genoa, more than 200 people were sent to hospital after swimming in the algae or inhaling toxins carried to the beach by the wind. This summer, officials in Massachusetts put out a toxic beach algae warning but did not close the beaches. It’s a problem for fresh water lakes as well.

Some are attributing the algae outbreaks to global warming. Although this may indeed be a factor as our seas warm up, it is clear that excess nitrate rich fertilizers, along with animal wastes and poorly treated or untreated sewage, are the main villains.

The problem is deeper than just hazards to humans. When a beach is covered with algae virtually everything that lives on and within the beach is killed while access is denied to nesting and to food for local birds, fish, sea turtles and various crustaceans. Thus, an entire beach/nearshore ecosystem that includes microscopic organisms (meiofauna) living between sand grains at the bottom of the food chain up to sharks cruising offshore, is wiped out. Simultaneously oxygen is usually depleted in nearshore waters, a threat to marine mammals and sea birds.

Politicians at a high level are finally beginning to pay attention to this problem. After all, beaches are a critical part of the economy of most coastal regions. The French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, announced that the “state would take over the responsibility for cleaning the beaches most affected.” He is also creating an interdepartmental committee to fight proliferation of the green algae and to protect the population and beaches. In other countries local municipalities or health organizations are trying to cope. The problem is of course, the coastal communities themselves did not usually create the toxic situation. At fault is the agribusiness along the coast and nearby rivers using fertilizers to boost production of food.

Hot weather, warm water, fertilized farms near rivers running into the sea are the problem, which disappears with the arrival of fall and winter. Unfortunately, it is always summer somewhere on our planet, and the problem flows from the land to the sea. With over 70 beaches in Northern France In trouble, as is the English coastline from Cardiff Bay to Portsmouth Harbor, coastlines worldwide are under attack. We wonder if this could be the toxic green wave of the future for developed coasts.

France Related Green Algae Resources

China Related Green Algae Resources

General Green Algae Pollution Information

French Official Report