Some Surprising History

Some Surprising History

A growing number of lake lovers are becoming more and more aware of an organism called blue-green algae.  Technically these creatures are not algae at all but are a unique type of bacteria called Cyanobacteria.

Unfortunately, these life forms have the ability to produce toxic chemicals that pose health risks to people and other animals, and especially dogs.  When lakes have excess phosphorous and surface temperatures warm, they can explode in numbers and turn a shallow lake into pea soup.

But, there is much more to their story.  Several billion years ago, cyanobacteria were about the only life forms in existence.  At that time, earth’s atmosphere was basically devoid of the oxygen that deeps creatures like us alive.  Then, one day, some billions of years ago, one of these cyanobacteria did something rash.  It broke open a water molecule, releasing a poison that brought massive death to a world that would never be the same.  The nasty chemical?  Oxygen.  That cyanobacterium had just invented photosynthesis.

So, cyanobacteria are a mixed blessing.  In shallow lakes with high phosphorus levels to stimulate population growth these organisms can harm a host of land life, from dogs to people, and degrade the water quality of our lakes.  But, without them, we would not be here to appreciate the beauty of lakes.

Darby Nelson

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