The presence of toxic algae in the Norfolk Broads seems to be getting worse, UEA researchers have discovered.
The increased growth has been attributed to climate change, with the problem set to worsen if the planet continues to get warmer. A study conducted by UEA scientists has been published in the Nature Climate Change Journal showing that water temperature impacts plankton ecosystems in oceans, and that this can affect the Norfolk Broads too.
The blue-green algae could have a devastating effect on the Broads as it is capable of producing toxins known to kill wildlife, especially fish and livestock.
Lead researcher Dr Thomas Mock, said: “We are talking about a global phenomenon here and I’m afraid almost all ecosystems will be affected by this, especially marine ones.
“Marine algae, fresh water algae, algae which live in streams, all will be affected by temperature in very similar ways. If warming continues at the current rate then it will affect the Broads as well, but it is very complex, it is not just a simple mechanism, it is a multi-layer change of ecosystem, so we can’t be sure what will happen in the next decade or several decades. But when the Broads warm up, all the algae in the Broads will be affected.”
But algae can also be used to make products that can be more effective than fossil resources. Because algae absorb water as they grow, they can be used to extract nutrients and harmful waste from streams.
On Monday 2 September a new microalgae growth facility supported by UEA and the University of Cambridge opened at the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden.
The facility is growing different algae species to determine exactly how algae can affect the carbon economy.
The opening accompanied the Algae Symposium being held at the Sainsbury Laboratory, where 120 members of the algae research community discussed the progress in algal technology.
Liliya Serazetdinova said: “We are looking forward to the new developments based on the collaboration between the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge leading towards setting up the new Algal Innovation Centre that will unlock the potential of algae for a knowledge-based bioeconomy in the UK.”