What is Cyanobacteria (Blue Green Algae)?

What is Cyanobacteria (Blue Green Algae)?

blue green algaeCyanobacteria or Bluegreen Algae are bacteria capable of photosynthesis - creating their own energy from the sun. These organisms occur naturally in surface water such as lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. When conditions are right - excess nutrients, warm temperatures, and sunshine, they can rapidly form blooms of Harmful Algal Blooms characterized by the presence of toxins produced by the bacteria.

The blooms can have the appearance of blue-green paint or scum. These blooms can be toxic, and frequently lead to the closure of recreational waters when spotted. Marine bacteriophages are significant parasites of unicellular marine cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria growth is favored in ponds and lakes where waters are calm and have less turbulent mixing. Their life cycles are disrupted when the water naturally or artificially mixes from churning currents caused by the flowing water of streams or the churning water of fountains. For this reason, blooms of cyanobacteria seldom occur in rivers unless the water is flowing slowly. Growth is also favored at higher temperatures, making increasing water temperature as a result of global warming more problematic. At higher temperatures Microcystis species are able to out compete diatoms and green algae. This is a concern because of the production of toxins produced by Microcystis.

under microscopeBased on environmental trends, models and observations suggest cyanobacteria will likely increase their dominance in aquatic environments. This can lead to serious consequences, particularly the contamination of sources of drinking water. Cyanobacteria can interfere with water treatment in various ways, primarily by plugging filters (often large beds of sand and similar media), and by producing cyanotoxins which have the potential to cause serious illness if consumed. Consequences may also lie within fisheries and waste management practices. Anthropogenic eutrophication, rising temperatures, vertical stratification and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide are contributors to cyanobacteria increasing dominance of aquatic ecosystems.


For more information contact Lake County Water Resources