Can invasive aquatic plants influence harmful algae blooms?

Through a partnership with the Cornell Nutrient Analysis Lab (CNAL), Brittney Rogers of the SLELO PRISM is currently engaged with our new invasive macrophyte nutrient analysis.  To start, we have tested a single aquatic invasive species, water chestnut (Trapa natans) for the nutrient content of the plants from several Eastern Lake Ontario locations.

Why Trapa you ask?

During the summers of 2018 and 2019, partners of the SLELO PRISM hand harvested over 30 tons of Trapa plants and curiosity took over. If we can determine the nutrient content of the plants, perhaps we can equivalate that into an internal nutrient loading value. The final step will be to attempt to determine if the nutrients removed from the system via hand-pulling are of significance in suppressing harmful algae blooms or HAB’s.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, Harmful algae blooms (HABs) may be linked to ‘overfeeding.’ This occurs when nutrients (mainly phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon) from external sources such as lawns and farmlands flow downriver and build up at a rate that ‘overfeeds’ the algae that exist normally in the environment (NOAA 2017). Internal sources of nutrients or nutrients released from sediment or through in-situ decomposition may also play a role in the overfeeding of algae, stimulating HAB’s. Furthermore, the amounts, proportions, and chemical composition of nitrogen and phosphorus sources can influence the composition, magnitude and duration of blooms (Paerl 2008).

If you think you’ve encountered a HAB, avoid contact and please report it to NYS DEC via the online Suspicious Algal Bloom Report Form. Visit the NYS DEC website to learn more

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