Algae

The algae are a polyphyletic and paraphyletic group of organisms. They are defined in differing ways, but are usually considered to be the photosynthetic organisms excepting plants. Using the term 'plants' in its most restrictive fashion, the algae are then photosynthetic organisms excepting the sister group to the Charales (i.e. the land plants). Such a definition allows inclusion of photosynthetic prokaryotes such as the cyanobacteria. The algae are the dominating primary producers in aquatic ecosystems, on unstable substrates (muds and sands) and in intertidal marine habitats. 

Source: Encyclopedia of Life

Due to the 'Red Tide' misnomer, blooms of red-colored algae, like this Noctiluca sp. (a dinoflagellate) seen here in Eastsound, Washington (July 2016), can cause undue public concern about harmful algal blooms. Photo: Jordan Cole

OVERVIEW

Harmful algal blooms in the Salish Sea

Formerly known as “Red Tide”, harmful algal blooms are a health concern for both wildlife and humans. The following is a brief review of some of these algae and their effects.

RELATED ARTICLES

A milky, turquoise, phytoplankton bloom in Hood Canal visible from space. Natural color MODIS image from Landsat 8 acquired July 24, 2016. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=88454
3/6/2018

Does Puget Sound need a diet? Concerns grow over nutrients

As the region's population grows, scientists say we can expect to see increasing amounts of nitrogen and other elements flowing into Puget Sound. Known as “nutrients” these elements are naturally occurring and even necessary for life, but officials worry that nutrients from wastewater and other human sources are tipping the balance. That could mean big problems for fish and other marine life, gradually depleting the water of oxygen and altering the food web.

The Budd Inlet sewage treatment plant. Photo courtesy of LOTT Clean Water Alliance
3/6/2018

Sewage treatment plant in Olympia a leader in nitrogen removal

A regional sewage-treatment system in Thurston County has helped contain  low-oxygen problems in Budd Inlet as the population continues to grow. The system cleans up some of the effluent for replenishing groundwater supplies.

The rapid growth of a red-orange algae, Noctiluca scintillans, dramatically colors the waters of Puget Sound near Edmonds on May 16, 2013. Such algae blooms have been seen more frequently in recent years. Photo: Jeri Cusimano via WA Ecology (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecologywa/8744775119
2/28/2018

Dead plankton leave clues to a food-web mystery

High amounts of elements such as nitrogen can cause blooms of phytoplankton that sometimes trigger perturbations throughout the food web. This occurs most often in the spring and summer after the long, dark, cloudy days of winter begin to fade.

Image describing low oxygen "dead zones"; image courtesy of NOAA
2/26/2018

How the state assesses low oxygen in Puget Sound

Under the federal Clean Water Act, states are required to assess the quality of their surface waters and compile a list of polluted water bodies. The law mandates cleanup plans to address pollution and other water-quality problems. This article describes how this process works in Washington state for dissolved oxygen. 

Report cover
12/19/2017

2017 Addendum — Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action

The Washington Marine Resources Advisory Council has released an addendum to the 2012 report Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action. The original report established a statewide strategy for addressing ocean acidification in Washington. The addendum identifies updates based on emerging science and management practices and is intended to be a companion to the 2012 report. 

Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus). Photo by NOAA Fisheries.
12/18/2017

Year-round algal toxin exposure in free-ranging sea lions

Sea lions living along the coast of Washington are at risk from harmful algal blooms throughout the year, according to a 2017 study published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Puget Sound marine Waters 2016 report cover
12/12/2017

2016 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program has released its sixth annual Marine Waters Overview. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2016 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds and fish.

Image of tidal motion in SSM (72 hr animation, April 06); Exaggerated vertical scale to visualize SSM domain-wide tidal motion
9/27/2017

The Salish Sea Model

The Salish Sea Model is used to predict spatial and temporal patterns in the Salish Sea related to factors such as phytoplankton, nutrients and Dissolved Oxygen. It is a collaborative effort between the Pacific Northwest National Lab, the Washington State Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Toxic algal blooms are sometimes associated with invasive plankton. Photo: Eutrophication&Hypoxia (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/5120831456
10/4/2016

Salish Sea snapshots: Invasive species and human health

Invasive species are considered a top threat to the balance of ecosystems worldwide. New discoveries of non-native green crabs in Puget Sound have highlighted that concern here at home, but invasive species can impact more than just the food web. Some introduced species can produce toxins that accumulate in shellfish or by directly infecting the human body.

Puget Sound Marine Waters 2015 report cover
9/27/2016

2015 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program released its fifth annual Marine Waters Overview this week. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2015 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds, fish and marine mammals.

Monitoring devices deployed by NOAA for detecting harmful algal blooms. Photo by Rachael Mueller.
7/12/2016

Salish Sea snapshots: Detecting harmful algal blooms

Environmental samplers may provide early detection of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Puget Sound. This toxic algae is expected to increase as the climate changes, bringing with it new and potentially more severe outbreaks of shellfish poisonings. 

Studies suggest that western sandpipers depend on biofilm for close to 60% of their diet. Storey's Beach, Port Hardy, BC. Photo:  Nicole Beaulac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicolebeaulac/26579296150
6/1/2016

Salish Sea 'slime' vital for shorebirds

It turns out that a gooey substance known as biofilm is a big deal for Salish Sea shorebirds, providing critical food for some species. But could a proposed port expansion in Vancouver threaten this slimy resource?

Algal bloom. Photo: Eutrophication&Hypoxia (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/5120831456
2/26/2016

Harmful algal blooms in Puget Sound

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in a water system. While most are innocuous, there are a small number of algae species that produce harmful toxins to humans and animals.

2003 Seattle Marathon - Seward Park Photo: J Brew (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/1282527696
2/17/2016

Cleaning up Lake Washington

Lake Washington was heavily contaminated by untreated sewage until extensive pollution controls by the city of Seattle. 

Puget Sound marine waters 2014 report cover
9/13/2015

2014 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A report from NOAA and the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides an overview of 2014 marine water quality and conditions in Puget Sound from comprehensive monitoring and observing programs.

2013 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview
9/11/2014

2013 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides an overview of 2013 marine water quality and conditions in Puget Sound from comprehensive monitoring and observing programs.

8/13/2013

2012 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Marine Waters 2012 Overview from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program synthesizes conditions measured in 2012 and has been expanded to include observations on seabirds that rely on marine waters. Read an excerpt below, or download the full report.

Eyes Over Puget Sound August 2017 report cover
6/19/2013

Eyes Over Puget Sound

The Washington Department of Ecology distributes a monthly report combining high resolution aerial photographs with satellite and ground-truthed monitoring data for Puget Sound surface conditions.

Map of the Hood Canal Action Area; courtesy Puget Sound Partnership
9/19/2012

PSI review finds minimal evidence for human impacts on Hood Canal hypoxia

An independent review conducted by the Puget Sound Institute (PSI) is featured in findings by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology that there is currently “no compelling evidence” that humans are the cause for recent trends in declines in dissolved oxygen in Hood Canal.

Puget Sound Marine Waters 2011
9/18/2012

2011 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Marine Waters 2011 report is now available. The report was produced by the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program and assesses the condition and quality of the waters of Puget Sound. 

The invasive tunicate Styela clava. Photo: WDFW
4/23/2011

Intentional and unintentional introduction of invasive and non-native species

Non-native species are those that do not naturally occur in an ecosystem. A non-native species is considered invasive when it is capable of aggressively establishing itself and causing environmental damage to an ecosystem. Plants, animals, and pathogens all can be invasive.