Largest Toxic Algae Bloom Ever Recorded Is Also A Deadly Freshwater Menace To People and Animals



from a Google Image search

This post is the itinerary of a recent research excursion (pun intended)
Partial list of sources follows post.

Many of you know that the West Coast of North America is suffering under the onslaught of what is being called the largest toxic algal bloom.  Ever.  Usually toxic algae blooms occur as a result of agricultural runoff; usually they are localized; this bloom is freakin' huge.


An extensive bloom of toxic algae along the West Coast has waxed and waned since it first appeared in early May, but it hasn't gone away. Now well into its second month, the bloom extends all along the coast from Santa Barbara to Alaska. In Alaska, the algal toxin domoic acid has reached levels never before seen that far north, according to Raphael Kudela, professor of ocean sciences at UC Santa Cruz.
"It truly is an unprecedented event," said Kudela, who holds the Ida Benson Lynn Chair in Ocean Health at UC Santa Cruz. "It's doing very strange things along the whole West Coast of the United States."
Read more


Global warming?  Perhaps; indeed that is the hypothesis of choice currently in the main stream media.  One would think that this phenomenon would be observed elsewhere --  unless the conditions are not right, or not right yet, anywhere else.  

The thing is, it is not only oceanic toxic blooms.

Agricultural runoff?  Seems less likely, right?  How about if toxic algae were blooming in bodies of water off into which no agricultural waste nitrates ever ran?  

Like a reservoir?

Lake Chabot, a northern California backup reservoir, was once closed to the public; then it was opened for recreational activities. Although swimming is not allowed, apparently it is usually not actively discouraged, as several members of a recent fourth of July outing to the lake had been intending to take a dip -- only to find new signs up, saying in no uncertain terms that any contact with the water in the reservoir was, at this time, strictly prohibited, as it was considered to be toxic.  

From the Lake Chabot website, a screenshot:

from the Lake Chabot website


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Please take note: 
three dogs have died
 because of ingesting a very small amount
of water infested with toxic algae.
The water does not 
have to be thick and green and slimy 
to kill your dog, or you.
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Quick biology lesson, since we are here anyway at this semantic juncture, and we need to ratchet down from the red bold lettering above:

Bioaccumulation ought to be distinguished from biomagnification, with which it is often confused by science writers who need to do their homework. 

a faustian remix





Biomagnification occurs across levels of the food chain.    It refers to the increasing toxicity with respect to a given chemical as you travel up the food chain.  Organisms have ingested organisms that have ingested organisms that have ingested ....some of the toxin.  The ones on top will have the highest concentrations, if the toxin biomagnifies. Think DDT.

Bioaccumulation occurs within one level of the food web, and as far as I can tell from my own homework, often is used to refer to the same species, if not the same organism.  It means that the body of an organism that eats toxic food will be more toxic over time.  The food may be made up of other organisms, or not.

The toxins secreted by deadly algal blooms are not flushed from the body; they are neurodegenerative, causing seizures, paralysis, coma, death; some can be responsible for diseases such as Lou Gehrig's/Parkinsons. 

And they bioaccumulate.  They stay in the body, with every exposure, building in toxicity.

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Let's go to that update, shall we, Gentle Reader? There we find out that 'rare' means the first time was last year:

from Lake Chabot website.  idiosyncratic colorization, mine.

Indeed, although blue-green algae have plagued North American bodies of water for years, in an overwhelming majority of cases the first time the bloom had turned toxic was in the last few years for other Lakes as well, up and down the coast; and not just on the West coast: Lake Erie, where the algae affected drinking water last August, is expected to have a severe bloom again this year by federal scientists.  Its first was recent. Kentucky and Ohio lakes are experiencing toxic blooms for the first time.  So is New Zealand.  Toxic cyanobacteria were found for the first time in the open ocean in 2010. (See 'Sources & Other Links for the Curious,' below).

In fact, toxic algal blooms have not really 'been with us' throughout history, except extremely rarely.    They are a modern phenomenon:

from "Toxic Algal Blooms and Red Tides, A Global Perspective" by Donald Anderson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1989. 

But none as big as the one on the West Coast of North America, now, where some other factor or group of factors is ensuring the monstrous proliferation and spread of these organisms.  Sea lions, fish, jellyfish, starfish, birds, dolphins, whales, sharks, herring, anchovy, salmon, all have had mortality events in the last year.  Or their populations have disappeared, or in the case of starfish, disintegrated. (To read more, just browse the 'U.S. and Canada' section of Energy News.)

Josie, a healthy Labrador, a victim of the algae at Lake Chabot.
Global warming (I'd rather call it 'climate change')?  Drought?  Agricultural runoff, phosphorous and nitrates?  All of these have been put forth to explain the blooms, and all could easily play a part.  Now if you follow this blog, you know how tempted I am to mention a few more factors...

Like how hardy cyanobacteria can be to ionizing radiation (one Deinococcus radiodurans, nicknamed 'Conan the Bacterium,' has been known to survive a whopping thousand times the radiation that would kill a man quickly). Or how radiation levels are on the uptick worldwide, most notably along the West Coast.  Add to this the seemingly sharp increase in toxic 'firsts' in the last three years, and you have...

...nothing so much as a reason to keep your eyes and ears open, and above all, your pets safe, away from algae-encrusted lakes, away from the Pacific; if it were me, I would keep them away from all stagnant water.

Oh, and

please keep the kids out of the rain....


Be seeing you.


LINKS AS PROMISED:



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