Why Monitor for Algae

August 17, 2020 carousel


Let's talk about why people monitor for algae.

The amount and type of algae can tell you a lot about the health of that system. But first, let’s cover what we’re referring to as algae. In simple terms, algae are photosynthetic organisms like plants. We can separate out the macroalgae, such as the red, brown, and green algae – sometimes referred to as seaweeds. Let’s instead focus on the microalgae, or single-celled algae.

Prokaryotes like blue-green algae lack a nucleus. This technically makes them photosynthetic bacteria, but they are still important to this discussion. There are also the eukaryotes like those that cause red and brown tides.

One thing all of these microalgae have in common is that you can find them in both freshwater and marine environments.

One major reason to monitor for algae is aquatic ecology research. This includes primary productivity like photosynthesis, system health and dynamics, and an interest in the types and abundance of algae in a system.

But the big reason for monitoring algae these days is source water protection and concerns over drinking water safety. Most states in the U.S. are dealing with Harmful Algal Blooms. These can range from cyanobacteria in the Great Lakes to red tides in Florida and the Gulf Coast. These blooms cause severe impacts on residents and local wildlife. From coast to coast, there is a need for algae monitoring.

So why do we monitor for algae? Scientists might be interested in how a body of water switches over from what we sometimes call healthy algae, like diatoms, to unhealthy algae like the blue-greens. A treatment plant operator or drinking water manager would be more concerned if the product they’re delivering is clean and safe for consumption. And of course, the public beachgoers want to know if it’s safe to swim or fish in the water.

You can learn more at YSI.com/how-sensors-work