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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Sea Lettuce in Brown Sauce

algal blooms along the coastline in China can now be observed from space

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, July 18, 2013/Categories: photography, environment

Typically, we think of environmental pollution as toxic industrial emissions, smog, or food contamination so algae wouldn't be high on the list. That is, unless you were going to the beach near Qingdao City in China. The Yellow Sea coast is experiencing an invasion of "sea lettuce" that could make for the grist of a SciFi novel or a Hollywood horror movie. News reports including the LA Times, talk about the algae Ulva prolifera that is now covered 11,500 square miles of coast, double the land area of Los Angeles County.

China Beaches with Sea Lettuce  (credit: Business Insider)

Algal blooms have occurred along the coast of Shandong Province and elsewhere around the world before. This is due to nitrogen run-off from farms and poorly treated sewage systems allowing the nutrients to flow into the ocean. In China's situation, aquaculture for edible algae may have released "seedlings" from growing cages. The lettuce has been so extensive that the floating mats can be seen from space. The algae itself isn't toxic but the decaying biomass starves the ocean of oxygen and impacts marine productivity. 

Satellite Photography, Sea Lettuce Bloom, Yellow Sea  (credit: NASA)

Everyone appreciates Chinese food as one the great cuisines of the world. However, Sea Lettuce in Brown Sauce should be avoided on any menu and beach swimming should not be tempted either.



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