Warmer weather means warmer water, which is a catalyst for the overgrowth of highly toxic blue-green algae known as cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms or cyanoHABs in ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Statistically, the warmer the weather, the worse the cyanoHABs.
The forecast for summer 2020 is set to see unusually warm weather. Data from the National Oceanic and Administration Agency (NOAA) shows that to the end of March, temperatures are tracking close to 2016 levels, which was the hottest year on record. Some of the most harmful algal blooms developed in the summer of 2016.
SIS.bio CEO Dave Shackleton said: “The proliferation of blue-green algae has become a serious problem for global water security. Excess nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen from agricultural runoff and wastewater, together with warmer weather, creates the perfect environment for toxic blue-green algae or cyanobacteria to flourish. In turn, the algal blooms produce toxins, including microcystin, which is the most common type of cyanotoxin. This renders water dangerous to both animals and humans alike.”
It is well documented that exposure to unsafe levels of microcystin concentrations through drinking or recreational water use can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fever, headache and vomiting, as well as liver and kidney damage in more severe instances. Microcystin exposure for pets, either through drinking or ingestion, can also produce serious health risks with dog deaths being experienced across the US, including Vermont, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas.
Similarly, in the UK, lakes in Suffolk, Cheshire and the Lake District have experienced cyanobacteria toxicity levels that have caused either dog fatalities or lake closures. In recent years, an increasing number of municipal managers and water authorities have had the unenviable task of closing lakes altogether to prevent recreational users and pets from becoming unwell.
To date, the standard approach has been to control the algae by using algaecides, adding aeration or alum treatments but the result has largely been to exacerbate the situation. The dead algae add to organic material that sinks to the bottom of the pond or lake, where it decomposes and provides the nutrients that fuel cyanoHAB growth. These chemical treatments may provide temporary symptomatic relief, but they compound the problem of toxic cyanoHABs over time.
Shackleton said: “A new approach was clearly required. At SIS.bio, we decided to take a holistic view of the issue. We reasoned that, in nature, nutrients and nourishment are a good thing. However, it is important to consider exactly what plants or organisms are consuming those nutrients and when.
“We realised that an integrated way to manage nutrient uptake was critical to recovering lost biodiversity in these water systems. Our holistic biotechnology solutions do this by creating the right conditions for nutrients to be taken up in a productive food chain and return the water body to health without deploying harmful chemicals.
“With the right management and approach, water quality can be restored, ensuring that lakes and reservoirs are safe for use. We have successfully and sustainably eliminated cyanoHABs in water bodies around the world. We encourage all those responsible for water resource management to reject the status quo of reacting to cyanoHABs after they have occurred and talk to us about preventative measures that are far more sustainable and environmentally friendly.”