Algae Abundance

We were driving back from Phil’s Fish Market several weeks ago when I noticed the water in this area — by the Moss Landing Harbor — practically covered in algae.

The color was a beautiful bright green, but instinctively you get the feeling that something is not right or a sort of imbalance produced all this algae.

I forgot about the photos I took until I read an article in the Monterey County Herald titled “Elkhorn Slough teeters on algal mess”, by Marissa Fessenden of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, about UC Santa Cruz researchers mapping the extent of algae growth threatening Elkhorn Slough.

Graduate student Brent Hughes examines algae (green sea lettuce) from Elkhorn Slough, an indicator of high nutrient levels. Photo by Monique Fountain.

The study indicates that the growth of these thick mats are a result of excessive nutrient levels (e.g., from fertilizer runoff from agricultural fields) and limits on how much tidal water enters parts of the slough.

The combination of high nutrient levels and stagnant water in certain parts of the slough produces the right conditions for these thick mats to grow, resulting in low-oxygen conditions that can harm fish and other wildlife.

For more information, click on the picture of graduate student Brent Hughes or here to link to the University of California Santa Cruz article by Tim Stephens.


5 thoughts on “Algae Abundance

    • As I understand from the articles, the excess growth in parts of the slough affects not our own air, but the underwater environment that can create “dead zones” for important fish species that live there — and also affect other wildlife in the area like the much-loved sea otters and shorebirds. Then again, we are all CONNECTED right? So in some way perhaps there is an impact Carmel…

      According to Brent Hughes, graduate student in marine ecology and lead author of the UCSC paper, the algae uses oxygen in the water and sediment, making it hard for fish and plants to survive in those conditions.

      The consensus seem to be modifying the tide controls (culverts, tide gates) to bring in fresh sea water and perhaps dislodge the over abundant algae, so that the algae washes out to sea.

      The other problems, with nutrient rich, agricultural fertilizer run-off is an issue as the area is surrounded by strawberry and vegetable fields that use the fertilizers (not to mention, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides) that may wash up in the slough.

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