Just before the Olympic Games, a 5,000 square mile blue-green carpet has covered China’s Yellow Sea.
The event is likely due to excess nitrates from pollutants like sewage and agricultural run-off, which can act like extra fertilizer for plankton. (Remember The Simpsons?) While Chinese officials blame warmer waters–and yes, it may potentially exacerbate the likelihood of algal blooms–that influence more likely serves to compound the effects of a bad situation.
While it appears this species is not toxic, impacts may still be severe. Algae can deplete surrounding waters of oxygen and result in dead zones where little survives. And it’s not just bad for fish, but socioeconomic implications can ripple out from unemployment in fisheries to the price of dinner.
Reports of the large-scale clean-up are mainly focused on whether this disgusting muck will impede sailing in the Olympics, but I’m afraid that’s not our biggest concern. I’m wondering why algal blooms are occurring around the world with increased severity and frequency than before…