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article imageBlue-green algae adapting easily to rising carbon dioxide levels

By Karen Graham     Aug 6, 2016 in Environment
Rising CO2 levels will eventually force many of the Earth's life forms to adapt or end up being lost. One species, the blue-green algae, of which there are many toxin-producing varieties, is adapting very quickly, and that is not a good thing.
A research team led by Professor of Aquatic Microbiology Jef Huisman, with the University of Amsterdam decided to take a more in-depth look at the cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), and in particular, Microcystis, according to Science Daily. Microcystis is a genus of freshwater algae that includes the harmful algae bloom Microcystis aeruginosa.
The research team found that Microcystis was even more adept at handling climate changes than was previously thought, and this will have grave implications for clean water supplies, swimming safety, and our freshwater ecosystems. To reach their conclusions, the team observed the cyanobacteria in the laboratory and in Kennemer Lake in the province of North Holland, the Netherlands.
The cyanobacteria were also observed under carbon dioxide-rich and CO2-poor conditions. This was particularly interesting because the adaptation of these harmful cyanobacteria in response to enriched carbon dioxide environments had never been thoroughly studied before.
Xing Ji, a P.hD researcher on the team explained that doing so was very helpful in making predictions on how algae blooms will develop in the future. Scientists do know that Microcystis aeruginosa favors warm temperatures, and has the highest laboratory growth rates at 32 ┬░Celsius.
Basically, in both scenarios, the laboratory, and the lake, the Microcystis was able to adapt to increasing CO2 levels. The algae absorbs CO2 during photosynthesis, and as the study revealed, the algae that adapted to absorb more dissolved CO2 are the ones that are going to survive.
Implications for Mycrocystis adaptation
Quite simply, cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins and peptide hepatotoxins, such as microcystin and cyanopeptolin. They pose a threat to birds and mammals, including humans. They can pollute freshwater swimming locations, as well as kill fish and other water flora.
In the United States, we have seen what blue-green algae can do, already. This year alone, the state of Florida has been dealing with a massive toxic algae bloom affecting rivers and waterways, and in Utah, an algae bloom on a lake there sickened over 100 people just two weeks ago.
This interesting study, "Rapid adaptation of harmful cyanobacteria to rising CO2," was published in the journal PNAS on August 1, 2016.
More about bluegreen algae, rising co2 levels, Toxic algae, Cyanobacteria, Microcystis aeruginosa
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