Researchers at the University of Wisconsin say that nitrogen levels play a role in whether or not blue-green algae produce toxins, according to a release. Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Phosphorus has long been known to fuel the growth of toxic algae, but nitrogen at the right concentrations will as well. The researchers say a lack of nitrogen causes algae cells to produce extra toxins as they try to maintain stability with their environment until there is once again enough nitrogen for normal growth.
The Wisconsin team studied water in Lake Mendota from 2010 to 2011 and say that toxic blooms consistently followed non-toxic blooms that used up most of the water’s nitrogen.The findings are important because they further explain the role nitrogen plays in the growth of toxic algae.
Image: Lake Erie algal bloom 2011 (Credit: Brenda Culler / Ohio Department of Natural Resources)