Eco-briefs | Those emerald shores just might be toxic

Researchers take algae samples.
Photo courtesy Oregon State University


Cyanobacteria, some of the oldest microorganisms on Earth and the bacteria believed to have produced the oxygen that made life possible, are turning against us as they adapt to a changing climate. Researchers at Oregon State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released findings in the latest issue of Science that the proportion of cyanobacteria in algal blooms is increasing, and subsequently increasing the toxicity of freshwater lakes and estuaries, threatening aquatic organisms, ecosystems and drinking water.

“Cyanobacteria are basically the cockroaches of the aquatic world,” Timothy Otten, a postdoctoral scholar in the OSU College of Science and College of Agricultural Sciences, said in a press release from the university. “They’re the uninvited guest that just won’t leave.

“When one considers their evolutionary history and the fact that they’ve persisted even through ice ages and asteroid strikes, it’s not surprising they’re extremely difficult to remove once they’ve taken hold in a lake,” he said.

At least one-third of the 123,000 lakes greater than 10 acres in size in the United States may contain toxin-producing cyanobacteria. Their proliferation is increased by dams, rising temperatures, increased carbon dioxide concentrations, droughts and increased runoff of nutrients from urban and agricultural lands. Some lakes, like Lake Erie, now contain algal blooms large enough to be seen from space.


Until Nov. 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking comments on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife proposal to relinquish a 3.08-acre portion of the Granada State Wildlife Area to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The parcel will be used to relocate a railroad overpass and bridge and realign Highway 50 near the town of Granada. Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the loss of the parcel will not significantly affect the state wildlife area or negatively impact the wildlife, cultural resources, hunting or fishing access to the Arkansas River in the area. The draft environmental assessment is available at

The Fish and Wildlife Service is also holding public hearings in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California to present information and take comment on proposed rules for wolves in November and December.