Rolf Vinebrooke, a U of A professor who put out a study on blue-green algae on Alberta lakes. Algae levels are far lower than usual this summer. Taken on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 in Edmonton.
Greg Southam / 00088108A
Blue-green algae blooms are appearing on Alberta lakes less frequently this year than usual, according to a University of Alberta biological scientist.Rolf Vinebrooke says weather conditions are keeping the toxic algae blooms largely at bay, but there’s still a chance the organism will develop later in the summer.“It doesn’t preclude the possibility that if we have a really sunny August or even September, the blooms could still happen,” Vinebrooke said. “But the likelihood of that diminishes each week we have this cool, cloudy grey weather.”Blue-green algae are basically a microscopic plant — it needs resources like sunlight, nutrients and warmth to grow. A cool, rainy summer coupled with a late thaw of many of the province’s lakes hindered that growth.The down year for blue-green algae development follows another relatively low-activity summer in 2018, but Vinebrooke says that doesn’t mean Albertans should expect algae-free lakes every year.In fact, he says climate change will likely increase the overall prevalence of blue-green algae, with human practices that lead to chemical run-ins not helping matters.“There is a synergy between warming temperatures and human land-use practices that cause fertilizers to run into water, and the two are probably not going to be stopping at any time soon,” Vinebrooke said. “They actually seem to amplify each other’s effects and promote blue-green algal outbreaks.”It’s not entirely known what effects blue-green algae can have on those who interact with it.“They can produce a whole cocktail of different chemicals, some of which are toxins, that we don’t really know that well yet,” Vinebrooke said.Within the lake ecosystem, blue-green algae can be devastating.When the growth exhausts the nutrients available to it, it begins to decay, a process that takes oxygen out of the water, creating what Vinebrooke describes as “killing events,” where organisms that rely on the lake’s oxygen begin to suffocate and die off.“Rendering your lake pretty much dead is a huge consequence of these blooms.”email@example.com/jasonfherring