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Environmental Effects of Toxic Algae Blooms

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 1309 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Water is a necessity that all species require to live, humans, wildlife, and even microscopic organisms depend on having access to clean waters. However, there are a small but dangerous species of algae in some bodies of water that is affecting the quality of water and affecting the quality of life for many people and ecosystems. This organism is cyanobacteria or blue-green algae which are single- celled organisms and are often found in freshwater such as lakes, marshes, and rivers but has also negatively affected oceans around the world. The most common species of this harmful algae are Microcystic aeruginosa that when in bloom, it is known to cause illness and death to both wildlife and humans. According to Zhang(2019) there is evidence that these toxic algal blooms are a result of excessive nitrogen and phosphorus content in aquatic ecosystems on the account of agriculture practices and climate change(Zhang et al., 2019,p.5531). Additional research is needed to understand the full environmental effects of toxic algae blooms.

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Over the past couple decades many cities from all over the world are experiencing growth in population. Specific to the Lebanese population which 70% lives on the coastline that has an increasing rate of urbanization. As Abboud-abi and Hassoun explained(2017) this urbanization includes businesses, Industries, tourists project and other factors that cause environmental damage and in result is deteriorating the coastal ecosystem(Abboud-Abi Saab, Hassoun, 2017,p.38).  A larger population on this coastal region, means that the amount of waste will also grow. The disturbance of the natural phytoplankton succession and an occurrence of toxic algae were noticed in the polluted sites, reflecting the influence of wastewater drainage on the coastal seawater and in return the Lebanese marine biodiversity(Abboud-Abi Saab, Hassoun, 2017,p.38). 

As stated before, natural waste in waterways or even fertilizer that gets washed into drains all cause eutrophication. With the mounting empirical and experimental evidence, algal blooms can reproduce at an extreme rate because of eutrophication. Eutrophication is when the bodies of water such as lakes have too much nutrients, which as stated before are often caused by runoff from the land. When the bodies of water have this excessive amount of nutrients this is the optimal habitat for toxic algal blooms to occur. When these poisonous and fast reproducing cyanobacteria occur they grow on the surface of the water in a thick layer which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from the lack of oxygen.

As Pick explained(2016) in the Western Lake Erie, blooms composed of toxic microcystis have led to beach closures and drinking water advisories on both the Canadian and US side(Pick,2016,p. 1150). This same situation has occurred in more places such as in New Orleans and on the Mississippi River in the US. When countries and cities are being affected by harmful algal blooms (HAB) it can affect the locals in many ways. For example, if beaches are closed and dangerous to even be on, local coastal communities will suffer financially when no tourists can stay on the beach or enjoy the beach amenities, such as hotels, boat, and kayak rentals and restaurants. When this toxic algae produces a thick layer on the surface and blocks light and oxygen from the water this results in marine life dying under the film of toxic algae. This causes the event of even local restaurants and fisheries suffering because not having clean and safe to eat seafood. this toxic algae can also get into the local drinking water supply, threatening the well-being of the community including the local’s pets who don’t have access to clean drinking water.

A study being done to help eradicate toxic algal blooms and study the effectiveness of treatment for copper based algaecides, specifically M. aeruginosa cells are SC-ICP-MS. this single cell-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry is an emerging technology to quantify metal ions in individual cells of toxic cyanobacteria (Zhang et al., 2019,p.5531). There have been many suggested solutions to help fight against the spread of toxic algae, for example, mechanical solutions such as clay flocculation and artificial mixing or chemical approaches such as sodium percarbonate and magnesium hydroxide and in this case copper-based algaecides. This method is a successful treatment because although copper is an element which is essential for algae, at increased levels it becomes cytotoxic by inhibiting electron transport and inhibiting photosynthesis by binding to D1 proteins in chloroplast thylakoid membranes.

In my opinion the copper- based study to help combat toxic algae blooms is a great start to eliminating this environmental issue without causing any side effects that could further cause damage to the ecosystem.  I think that toxic algae blooms is a significant environmental matter that requires more people to be aware and knowledgeable about how they can positively impact the environment regarding toxic algae. There are countries who have banned glyphosate which is a common pesticide that often gets washed into our water ways polluting our waters and creating the perfect habitat for toxic algae. I think that everyone should know the environmental dangers of chemicals used in agriculture, especially for a chemical that has more environmental conscious alternatives. These chemicals are both deadly to us from being used in our crops and food just as they can be fatal to our ecosystem when washed into water ways. By the population being more informed about the environmental consequences of dangerous chemicals, creating a eutrophic state, which is the leading cause of toxic algae we can be more proactive and eliminate toxic algae from forming in the first place.

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Cyanobacteria is a prevalent and severe environmental issue that effects people and ecosystems from all over the world. Water is a vital part of existence for every species and when it is contaminated with toxic algae, killing animals and humans, makes this is substantial environmental concern.  Toxic algal blooms are an issue that is due to global warming and pollution of chemicals that get washed into our water ways, it is our responsibility to be informed and proactive about how to reduce and control the pollution that creates extreme levels of phosphorus and nitrogen that produce the optimal habitat for cyanobacteria. The copper-based algaecides study did effect the cells within the cyanobacteria. However, the levels of copper and lysis needed are not naturally produced and additional research is needed to understand the full environmental effects of toxic algae blooms.


  • Pick, F.R.(2016). Blooming algae: a Canadian perspective on the rise of toxic cyanobacteria. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 73(7),1149-1158.doi: 10.1139/cjfas-2015-0470
  • Saab, M. A.-A., & Hassoun, A. (2017). Effects of organic pollution on environmental conditions and the phytoplankton community in the central Lebanese coastal waters with special attention to toxic algae. Regional Studies in Marine Science10, 38–51. doi: 10.1016/j.rsma.2017.01.003
  • Shen, X., Zhang, H., He, X., Shi, H., Stephan, C., Jiang, H., … Eichholz, T. (2019). Evaluating the treatment effectiveness of copper-based algaecides on toxic algae Microcystis aeruginosa using single cell-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry411(21), 5531–5543. doi: 10.1007/s00216-019-01933-9


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