Over the last few years, the public has grown steadily aware of the dangers of toxic algae blooms. In July of 2019, blue-green algae blooms in Mississippi waters caused beach closures, fish kills, and illness. Now, research has illuminated that blue-green algae isn’t only dangerous for fish populations and people; it’s dangerous for our environment. A new study has found that toxic algae is shown to produce a greenhouse gas: methane.
What is Blue-Green Algae?
Blue-green algae is a specific type of algae comprised of cyanobacteria. This photosynthetic bacteria is what causes the appearance of blue or green algae in bodies of water, and while some forms of cyanobacteria are harmless, others secrete cyanotoxins, which cause illness in humans.
Cyanobacteria is naturally present in fresh- and salt-water bodies as well as in soil. Its population, however, has increased in recent years due to anthropogenic (human-caused) eutrophication. Often, eutrophication is caused by agricultural runoff into streams and rivers. Nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers will deplete the levels of dissolved oxygen within the water, creating the perfect environment for cyanobacteria to thrive. This bacteria will block the sunlight from reaching aquatic life below, and without sunlight or oxygen, plants and marine life subsequently die.
So not only is cyanobacteria dangerous for humans to touch or consume, but it is also dangerous for aquatic life.
And now, it seems that this toxic algae is dangerous for the environment as well.
Toxic Algae Releases Greenhouse Gases
While worrying about toxic algae’s potential effect on us, very few people stopped to think about its effect on the environment.
Some researchers, however, thought to ask the question: does algae produce greenhouse gases? And after years of research and experimentation, they have their answer.
The study, led by Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and Heidelberg University, found that cyanobacteria produce methane during photosynthesis. Previously, scientists thought that only one microbial species–under the domain Archaea–could produce methane. This study, however, has proved this notion incorrect. While cyanobacteria do not produce as much methane as archaea, the findings are still remarkable.
Researchers could not estimate how much methane cyanobacteria produce globally, but the findings demonstrate one more way that agricultural pollution is affecting the environment. As nutrient pollution from agricultural runoff continues to increase, so too will the eutrophication of water bodies. This, in turn, will lead to more algae blooms and methane production.
How to Reduce Methane from Cyanobacteria
In order to limit the amount of methane produced by cyanobacteria, farmers should implement more efficient and ecofriendly farming methods. And limiting or eliminating nutrient pollution is surprisingly easier than many think.
Fertilizer runoff occurs when farmers use too much fertilizer. While this may surprise you, this is actually a common practice. For years, farmers have doused their fields with fertilizer in order to make their crops grow stronger and bigger, which has not only depleted the soil of its nutrients but has also caused nutrient pollution. Plants only absorb so much fertilizer; they take what they need and leave the rest in the ground. So when farmers increase their fertilizer output, they don’t actually increase crop yield or plant health.
Fertilizer will instead remain in the soil, where microbial bacteria will consume and then release it as nitrous oxide (another greenhouse gas). When it rains, the fertilizer sitting in the soil is carried to water bodies and deposited.
While efficient fertilizer use will help limit nutrient pollution, it won’t eliminate it. The best way to eliminate nutrient pollution is to use a fertilizer that does not produce runoff. xVital, our liquid nitrate fertilizer, produces absolutely no runoff. xVital is made with nitrate and ionized water. By using our online calculator, you can determine how much nitrogen to add to your water. In addition to this, plants have an easier time absorbing our fertilizer than they do others!
You can help reduce the amount of methane and nitrous oxide in the air; simply switch to xVital!