Mummy why's the water green??

Greetings everybody, 

How would you feel if you went into your kitchen, to run some water from your tap and instead of a nice clear glass of water you are greeted with this. 

Well this is what the people in Toledo, Ohio have been faced with, but what has caused their drinking water to turn such a toxic green colour? Believe it or not the culprit is microscopic! We know what your saying isn't it always, they always do the cool stuff. Biobunch introduces to you Microcystis aeruginosa

This bacteria belongs to family called Microcystis, one of the most common bloom forming cyanobacteria in temperate freshwater ecosystems. Microcystis aeruginosa produces a hepatotoxin called microcystin, this toxin is harmful to animals and humans. This toxin bloom built up at the western end of the lake; the main source of drinking water for Toledo Ohio. This left them without a water source for several days but has now cleared. Very unfortunate. 

But why now? 

In a paper published in the database PLOS ONE reports that blooms such as those experienced in the Lake Erie are often associated with high temperatures and the availability of nitrogen and phosphorus. Interestingly, freshwater ecosystems have low concentration of phosphorus, but the lake was shown to have unusually high levels of phosphorus. But why? 
The western end of Lake Erie is neighbour to agricultural land, the lands are so well fertilised that they have excess soil, this excess leaked into the water system. And this was the beginning of the problem. 
This influx of phosphorus in the water triggered the bacterium to bloom. Experiments investigating the effect of Phosphorus loading on the bacteria showed significant enhancement on growth rates of Microcystis. Elevated nitrogen levels also play a role on increasing the growth and toxicity of the bacteria. Microcystis is thought to primarily use inorganic compounds as a source of nutrients, however in the summer months these levels drop due to cellular uptake of the bacteria peaking, this causes the bacteria to exploit the excess nitrogen and phosphorus run off. 
This may be set to continue as a cause of continued phosphorus run off from neighbouring farmed lands. 
For information as to how they gathered this information on the cyanobacteria and how they carried out even further research on to how gene expression changes both before and after algal bloom then please have a read, click here

Its a big lake, whats to stop the bloom from spreading further down the Lake and into other areas? 

An aquatic biologist put many minds at rest when he stated that this bloom of hepatotoxins was unlikely to spread further that the western part of the Lake, thereby leaving states such as Pennsylvania unaffected by the bacteria. The western part of the lake has shallow waters, meaning that the western waters are kept warm, and as previously mentioned they have a source of nitrogen and phosphorus courtesy of farming techniques. In comparison, it was shown the Central and Eastern basins are unlikely to experience such blooms. The Central basin has a depth of 60 ft, and the Eastern basin has a maximum depth of 210 ft, these high volumes of water make it harder for these waters to be heated by the sun. 
It was highlighted that any blooms to occur in any of the two regions will be less frequent, less severe, shorter lived and have a smaller bloom size overall. For the full article click here.  

The future for Lake Erie: 

As in most cases, one prime issue is Climate Change, with warmer waters set to occur on a global scale habitat availability for the Microcystis. Just one problem, but other than trying to reduce the adverse impact of climate change what else can be done? 
If you answered shift agricultural practices, thereby reducing surface run off. Give yourself a pat on the back, because you are correct. Researchers are going into how they can work with farmers in order to reduce this problem without necessarily blaming them. 

That marks the end of the post be sure to keep up to date with the feature in the news, and have a read into the links we provided up top they are pretty  awesome and we only managed to give you a snapshot of the story!
over and out

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