The Amy H Remley Foundation  
   
     
 

Algae

Algae, like Lyngbya and other microorganismsExtremely small organism that can only be seen using a microscope., have been with us for thousands of years, and are found around the world in slower moving or still waters of a given temperature, where sunshine and a cocktail of nutrientsAny food, chemical element or compound an organism requires to live, grow, or reproduce. are present for them to grow by photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
(using energy from the sunshine). There are two basic variants of algae; those having cells with a nucleus

  1. Dense central portion of an atom that is composed of neutrons and protons.
  2. Structure found in eukaryotic cells that contains the chromosomes.
, and those of a bacterial nature such as CyanobacteriaBacteria that have the ability to photosynthesize. (blue-green algae) of which Lyngbya is an example. The sixty subspecies of Lyngbya have both salt water and fresh waterWater that is relatively free of salts. attributes.

All the conditions for Lyngbya to thrive existed in Crystal River / Kings Bay long ago, just as they do today. The water temperature issuing from the springs was and remains ideal. Florida sunshine was the same then as today, and the requisite cocktail of nutrients was and remains present in the aquiferPorous, water-bearing layers of sand, gravel, or rock. today. In days of old, leachateSolution containing material leached from a soil. from pine forests, guano, limestoneSedimentary rock composed of carbonate minerals, especially calcium carbonate. Limestone can be created by clastic and non-clastic processes. Clastic limestones are formed from the break up and deposition of shells, coral and other marine organisms by wave-action and ocean currents. Non-clastic limestones can be formed either as a precipitate or by the lithification of coral reefs, marine organism shells, or marine organism skeletons. rock formations, salt and sandy soil was sufficient source for the nitrogen, phosphorous, dissolved calcium, iron, and heavy metal mineralComponent of rocks. A naturally occurring inorganic solid with a crystalline structure and a specific chemical composition. Over 2,000 types of minerals have been classified. traces required for the nutrient cocktail. In some parts of the world they still are – even where man had never influenced the environment unduly.

Locally, nowadays, the aquiferPorous, water-bearing layers of sand, gravel, or rock. has ample store of algal nutrients added from our modern activities sufficient for decades to come. For example, slash pine plantations for lumber, phosphate mining, limestone mining for cement, citrus and cattle farming and other agriculture all have produced excess nutrient run off into the aquifer and soil, and the more so because natural trees, vegetation and two thirds of our wetlandsNatural land-use type that is covered by salt water or fresh water for some time period. This land type can be identified by the presence of particular plant species or characteristic conditions. were destroyed to make way.

Modern urbanizationExpansion of cities into rural regions because of population growth. In most cases, population growth is primarily due to the movement of rural based people to urban areas. This is especially true in Less Developed Countries. and motorized traffic densities spill many pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances. , counted as parameters of poor water qualityA term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for a particular purpose.. NutrientsAny food, chemical element or compound an organism requires to live, grow, or reproduce. are reaching such proportions, stimulating plant and algal growth in our waters, sufficient to deplete supplies of dissolved oxygenMeasures the amount of gaseous oxygen dissolved in an aqueous solution. Oxygen gets into water by diffusion from the surrounding air, by aeration (rapid movement), and as a waste product of photosynthesis. necessary for livelihood of plant and wildlife populations. When waters have too high a concentration of nutrients then it is said to be “eutrophicHaving an excessive supply of nutrients, mostly in the form of nitrates and phosphates. Also see mesotrophic lake and oligotrophic lake.”. Essentially, when fertilizers are applied to plants in volumes exceeding those absorbed by plant growth, the surplus runs off the land or permeates into ground waters.

One may justly question why Lyngbya is so obvious now and was not so obvious long ago, nor even a few decades ago. The principal variant between then and now, is simply the rate at which the water flowed then as opposed to now. There is plenty of evidence illustrating that Lyngbya and other algal species do not thrive in faster flowing streams or in better aerated waters.

Think about it. Flow rates were unimpeded many years ago, water levels in the aquiferPorous, water-bearing layers of sand, gravel, or rock. were not reduced, and Lyngbya was unable to take hold, except near the edges of a water body where flow rates were slower. Since then much has happened to reduce flow rates so that the algae can take hold more easily. Only a relatively minute difference in the pressure equilibrium is needed to affect the flow rate of the waters across the aquifer and down river. Think how the aquifer pressure reduces, and rates of flow from the springs are lowered, as the many homes, farms, golf courses, businesses, government and industrial buildings take up fresh waterWater that is relatively free of salts. from the aquifer for a whole variety of good purposes, allowing surpluses to evaporate from the increases in imperviousNot allowing fluid to pass through areas. Flow rates have been further reduced by more than a hundred canals cut to allow “waterfront” to so many homes in and around the City of Crystal River, with each canal subject to inward tidalRelating to or affected by tides. flow and counter flow twice a day. Think of the multitude of boat docks and moored craft which further slow the water flows.

As a passing thought, consider the Rainbow River, having higher concentrationsThe amount of a component in a given area or volume. of nutrientsAny food, chemical element or compound an organism requires to live, grow, or reproduce. than Crystal River / Kings Bay, but by flowing at a faster rate it has fewer algae and better water clarity.

Biofilm

Algae is the name given to microorganisms that photosynthesize. Biofilm is a complex arrangement of microorganisms that can attach to each other and to a surface. A matrix of microbic cells can form as biofilm to which other microorganisms including algae may attach. Examples of biofilm exist in industrial, medical and natural environments having a wide range of important applications including the creation of food chain items, carriage of infections in catheters and other medical procedures, and dispersion of tar balls and oil from oceanic oil-spills. Algae may use them simply to anchor to a surface in a stream flow. The two photographs below show algae attached by biofilm to a limestone waterfall rock and a vertical plastic pond surface.

Algal Bloom Event – March,2006

Algae now seriously impair our local water qualityA term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for a particular purpose.. During the few days prior to March 25th, 2006, a truly massive algal bloomA rapid growth of microscopic algae or cyanobacteria in water often resulting in a coloured scum on the surface. occurred in the southern part of Kings Bay. The speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun. of algae in that event has been identified as Chaetomorpha. On that Saturday, a very low tide revealed dense algal blooms completely covering an area of some ten acres and more. Several speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun. of algae were involved, including the easily recognized Lyngbya and Spirogyira among others. Commendable efforts were immediately made to harvest the bloom, over a period of several weeks before it could detach itself, float to the surface and be spread elsewhere by wind and water movements. However, within a couple of weeks of being “cleared”, evidence of further bloom throughout the area could be seen. We have a really serious problem on our hands, to combat the spread of algae. Lyngbya, particularly, is very aggressive – it will bloom to spread and cover one hundred square meters a minute.

Algae (Lyngbya) Life Cycle

Benthic Lyngbya Bottom or benthic mats of Lyngbya green up as they make chlorophyllGreen pigment found in plants and some bacteria used to capture the energy in light through photosynthesis., and then they bloom. As it grows, clusters of bacteriaSimple single celled prokaryotic organisms. Many different species of bacteria exist. Some species of bacteria can be pathogenic causing disease in larger more complex organisms. Many species of bacteria play a major role in the cycling of nutrients in ecosystems through aerobic and anaerobic decomposition. Finally, some species form symbiotic relationships with more complex organisms and help these life forms survive in the environment by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. associate together in a protective sheath to form a filament structure. New filaments form from clusters of bacteria which emerge enclosed in a membrane from the end of the sheath. As they grow using energy from sunlight the filaments interweave to form mats. Nutrients are absorbed through the sheath walls. Within the bacteria gas vesicles form to regulate buoyancy of the mat. As buoyancy builds up a layer of mat rises, eventually to tear away from the bottom mat and float to the surface. The filaments from the bottom mat can become quite lengthy and smother and kill other aquatic plant material they encounter.

The bottom mats continue to grow after yielding layers to the surface. The surface mats travel with wind and water movement to new locations. Counter currents cause the floating mats to clump together into dense areas, sometimes exceeding an acre in size. Floating mats exclude sunlight and otherwise deprive plants and wildlife of habitatThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives.. Prolonged hard rains on the surface mats disturb buoyancy of the gas vesicles so that the floating mats sink to the bottom. There, in a new place, they can grow and bloom as new mature bottom mats. Some mats become non viable as they are deprived of nutrientsAny food, chemical element or compound an organism requires to live, grow, or reproduce., or sunshine, or the water temperature falls as cooler weather comes.

As the sun drifts south later in the year and loses sufficient strength for the algae to photosynthesize and grow, the Lyngbya goes to sleep as a dark wispy mass on the bottom. What we see as brown or black surface agglomerations are really non viable surface mats in decay. In spring time, as the sun advances to the north, more sunshine energy allows the Lyngbya to grow again, and bloom quite dramatically.

Lyngbya Lyngbya is more robust than most other algae, having a filament sheath which measures more than sixty microns across. Four toxins have been identified to characterize Lyngbya, and set it apart as a threat, although not all occurrences of the same Lyngbya species have all the toxins, indicating that the presence of toxins may correlate with specific nutrient content. Two of the dermal toxins have been identified in Lyngbya specimens taken from Crystal River / Kings Bay.

A characteristic of cyanobacteriaBacteria that have the ability to photosynthesize., like Lyngbya, is that initial observations may be relatively sparse, only for a sudden bloom to be overwhelming. The slow development takes place largely out of sight below the surface. That such slow microscopicToo small for human eyesight without employing a microscope growth can then spawn a bloom over several acres in a matter of hours, or at best a few days, is warning indeed of the true nature and maturity of the threat posed to our local Outstanding Florida Water. It has been colonized.

For a single filament to procreate another and to assume the proportions of a small benthic mat is a lengthy process, and for that to produce by photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
the vesicles needed for a section to rise could occupy a number of growth cycles.

Spirogyra behaves in a similar way, and rises to the surface as individual long spiral form filaments rather than layers of a bottom mat. It is thought that the spiral may contain gas sufficient for it to float. On the surface, mats form and are moved about as the Lyngbya does. Spirogyra is not a bacteria, individual cells each joined to each other have a controlling nucleus

  1. Dense central portion of an atom that is composed of neutrons and protons.
  2. Structure found in eukaryotic cells that contains the chromosomes.
.

 

Ambient temperature

A certain water temperature is usually necessary for an algal bloom to occur, although some species bloom in different locations in the world over a broad range of temperatures. A number of inter-related issues affect the amount of energy available for growth of submersed aquatic vegetation and algae. Although water issuing from the springs tends to a certain temperature year round, distance from the spring head, cloudiness, the angle of the sun in the sky and prevailing wind direction according to weather conditions, allow air temperature to influence water temperature and consequently water clarity.

Water clarity can be seen to change for the better over night, say, as a cold front reduces ambient temperature as it moves through, especially had the sun moved southwards late in the year. With less energy available, suspended matter in the water column, reducing visibility, ceases to grow and falls to the bottom to increase water clarity.

A further effect of water temperature is its use as a winter thermal refuge for the manatee which is a function of the amount of fresh water discharge from the springs. A reduction of this fresh water input by the effect of drought, over pumping or withdrawals for bottling, will reduce the amount of warmer water available as thermal refuge.

Stream velocity

Stream velocity is often overlooked as a prime contributor to the degree to which algal blooms form. In faster moving streams algal elements which are attached to the bottom (benthic) or to plants are exposed to nutrients of the water column for less time and grow less quickly. Algal elements suspended in the faster moving streams tend to disperse as opposed to linking with benthic or attached alga elements. In slower moving streams or in stagnant waters algae tend to grow more aggressively.

Conclusion

We cannot say that the threat to Crystal River / Kings Bay from algae is under control, nor are the circumstances which have given rise to the algae infestation likely to change any time soon. Design enhancements to the harvesters allow Lyngbya to be lifted from the bottom, but along with whatever else is growing there above ground. In order to control Lyngbya before its penetration becomes so extensive as to disrupt and distort the natural balance so much, that speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun. which depend for their health upon natural habitatThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives. no longer exist for us, nor for our economically significant visitors, to enjoy.

Hunter Spring Run

An attractive option would be to contain algal blooms from spreading in spring and summer time, and progressively reduce them by rendering them non viable and less able to bloom in spring and summer by attacking them while asleep during the wintertime. A further strategy would be to control the limiting nutrientsAny food, chemical element or compound an organism requires to live, grow, or reproduce. and deprive the algae of their food source for growth. As either or both means succeed, we must be ready to repopulate denuded areas with native aquatic vegetation, to prevent rogue organisms from taking over the vacated areas. This would necessarily involve a systematic process of continually improving management policies and practices, learning from the outcomes of previous policies and practices, also known as Adaptive ManagementA management process involving a defined start position and a defined objective position, whereby the progress toward the objective can be measured, in order that judgments may be made as to degree of achievement reached and the process continued in the same or a revised form, or abandoned..

But first, regarding this algae problem, a control mechanism has to be proved effective and safe to apply.

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