Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) Can Be Mitigated and Prevented
What are Harmful Algae Blooms
Harmful algae blooms are an overgrowth of algae that leads to all kinds of problems, including smelly, green ponds and lakes, fish kills, and harm to humans and animals. Too much algae overgrowth also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. A lake experiencing HABs is considered to be experiencing eutrophication.
Water eutrophication is one of the biggest problems affecting parks departments, city managers, landscape architects, governmental water quality boards and public policymakers.
On golf courses, in urban waterways, private ponds, and public lakes, too many nutrients are feeding algae growth. There is not enough competition for this food source.
How can we get rid of too much algae?
The answer to this question is found in nature, not in the administration of a chemical or pill. You need to create a healthy ecosystem to have clean water—you don’t create clean water to have a healthy ecosystem. In a healthy ecosystem, microbes eat these same excess nutrients that algae love. By creating more microbes, you will eventually starve the algae of its main food source—this is natural algae control.
How do we introduce more microbes to water?
Microbes in the form of biofilm are a large factor for removing nutrients from the water. Biofilm is what covers a stick that has been in the water, that makes river rocks slippery, serves as the building block for microbes and food for insects, amphibians, and fish, and helps to keep the water clean. Therefore, any place that there is a matrix of material, like in a natural floating wetland, an abundance of microbes thrive. The matrix of material and the biofilm that forms serves as somewhat of a housing unit for all of these microbes…they live in the matrix and feed off of many of the nutrients in the water.
Microbes aren’t all you need to eliminate algae.
Insects, amphibians, fish, microbes, and plants are all competitors for the nutrients on which algae thrive. By far, the most effective way to remove excess nutrients from a body of water is to grow fish instead of algae. Harvesting (catching and keeping) fish removes a tremendous amount of phosphorus from the water. In order to do this, you must create a safe habitat for fish. Then, you need to harvest the fish.
In order for fish to thrive, fish need a cooler water temperature, shade, places to hide, a food source, and a source of dissolved oxygen.
You can read more about our favorite lake, Fish Fry lake, which we transitioned from a green, smelly lake to a world class fishing habitat, on Bruce’s blog.