A new study suggests that toxic algae blooms found in lakes around the country—including in Kentucky-- may play an active role in creating their own favorable conditions.
Cyanobacteria are toxic blue-green algae, and can cause illness and irritation in humans and animals. They thrive in warmer waters with ample amounts of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.
Last summer, regulators issued advisories for 15 lakes in the commonwealth that were known to have harmful algae blooms.
Dartmouth College biology professor Kathryn Cottingham co-authored the study, which suggests that algae can also create its own nutrients.
“They are capable of creating new nitrogen in the system by accessing nitrogen that’s currently in the atmosphere in forms that other organisms can’t use," explained Cottingham. "They bring it into their bodies and they turn it into a form of nitrogen that can grow more of them, or more of somebody else.”
A lot of the excess nutrients in watersheds come from sources like fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants. Cottingham says the best solution is making sure that the pollution never gets into the water in the first place.