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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Algal Blooms 101

Algae need fertilizer like any plant.

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, May 12, 2013/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment

Here's a bit of basic biology 101 that can affect both land and sea ecology as a negative "externality": like every plant, algae require nitrogen and phosphorus to grow. If they receive too much an algal bloom develops. If they receive excessive amounts of these nutrients, Dead Zones develop. Algal blooms are always bad news as they deplete water of oxygen and can impact all other aspects of an aquatic landscape and ecosystem.

Dead zones occur as large events in coastal zones as wide ranging as the Black Sea, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. Their causation is the same---the run-off of agricultural chemicals and other industrial chemicals into the water system. They are visible from space such as a recent photograph of the Bay of Bisque in France shows.


Algal Blooms, Bay of Bisque, France  (credit: NASA)

Some marine algal blooms can turn dangerous through production of toxins such as the noxious red tide or by so depleting ocean oxygen that they suffocate fish and marine mammals. You wouldn't want to go swimming in an toxic algal bloom either.

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