Murray Darling Basin Contemporary Issue - Blue Green Algae

Essay by jarrod123High School, 11th gradeA+, August 2009

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Blue Green Algae in the Canberra’s Lake Burley GriffinWhat is Algae?Algae is a type of bacteria that grows in stagnant or low flowing, nutrient rich water. Algae poses a massive problem across the Murray Darling Basin (MDB). Algae is a natural part of any freshwater environment although there are notable and increased amounts since the construction of dams and the release of excess nutrients due to agriculture and industry. Algae proliferates in waterways that have little flow and which are subject to high levels of nutrients, such as phosphorus. It grows close to the surface of the water and restricts water flow, which can impede the flow and downstream viability of the river system. The level of algae in a river system is a clear indicator of the health of the waterway, the nutrient levels and the flow. This reduced flow begins to then produce more algae which often struggles to be flushed from the river system other than through flood, overflow or drought.

There are largely two key reasons that algae is problematic. The first problem with algae and algal blooms is that they clog up river systems as they reproduce in high quantities and are difficult to control and reduce. The algal blooms are toxic which can result in illness in humans and death to livestock if consumed or absorbed in to the system in high enough quantities. The second problem with algae is that when the algae dies there are aerobic organisms that eat the algae. These organisms use all of the oxygen in the water which leaves the river without life as nothing can then continue to grow. This causes problems for the local flora and fauna in the river and can result in the river eco systems collapsing or being compromised. For example, fish can...