UF researchers find way to possibly reduce harmful algae

[USA] After about 20 years, researchers from UF and the Palatka-based St. Johns River Water Management District may have found a new way to decrease populations of algae that are harmful for plants and animals in water.

The research team studied Lake George, a central Florida lake, from 1993 to 2010 in a project that received more than $2 million from various grants, said Edward J. Phlips, a UF fisheries and aquatic sciences professor who worked on the project.

A study published online Feb. 24 in a journal called Environmental Science and Technology suggests reducing the amount of two nutrients essential to the growth of algae in Lake George and similar bodies of water might control the harmful algae populations, Phlips said. The two nutrients are phosphorus and nitrogen. One of the ways these could be reduced is by controlling the use of fertilizers.

Researchers studied a specific group of algae called cyanobacteria, which sometimes produces toxins that harm aquatic animals and plants.

Researchers collected measurements including algae counts and water temperatures. The dataset was analyzed by a team led by Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, a UF agricultural and biological engineering professor.

“We looked at all these different components of the (lake),” Muñoz-Carpena said.

Phlips said the water management district might use the study’s results to develop strategies to better manage populations of harmful algae.

“We want to, as part of the continuing research on the lake, to evaluate whether what they’ve been doing has led to success and getting the outputs that we think they should,” Phlips said.


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