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What Causes Algae in Lakes and Ponds?

Managing algal growth in water is complicated, in part, because there’s no definitive answer as to the cause of algae in ponds or lakes. Several factors come into play. Water nutrient levels, exposure to light, temperature, turbidity and the general conditions found in a body of water all contribute — and they’re all different from site to site. It’s important to stay ahead of the problem, however, since certain types of algae, like blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, can cause illness in humans and pets.

The Role of Pollution in Algae Growth

Given the slimy, sprawling appearance of certain types of algae and the way it often settles on the water’s surface, it’s easy to assume that algae is a byproduct of pollution. Algae plays a fundamental role in the health of any body of water, but problems arise when blooms grow out of control or the wrong types of algae begin to grow.

That isn’t to say that humans haven’t had an impact. The most prevalent algae on the planet today is blue-green algae, which feeds on a steady diet of phosphorus and nitrogen. While supplies of these nutrients are found in water naturally — especially in areas where the water has a low oxygen content — it’s also introduced through chemical runoff and erosion. Fertilizers and other products as well as poor sewage management have contributed to excess nutrients for many years. Practices and products are changing, but in most circumstances the damage has been done. Water bodies can have external sources of nutrients or with time they build up an internal supply of excess nutrients.

Light Exposure and Water Movement

Along with food, algae require the right amount of light to thrive. Blue-green algae are so common because they have the ability to move throughout the water column and adapt to variable conditions.  Filamentous algae will typically grow around the shoreline of a pond or lake because this is where the shallower water is.  You typically will not see filamentous algae growing in the middle of a 20 foot deep water body because that is too deep for the sunlight to penetrate.

Turbidity and Temperature

Swim in any natural body of water, and you’ll have trouble seeing below the surface because of the presence of tiny particles clouding your view. This turbidity impacts light exposure, and ultimately, the temperature of the water. The more turbid the water, the warmer the water will be allowing algae to grow quickly.

If you’re dealing with algae problems or attempting to prevent them, you may be facing a serious challenge without the help of an expert. What causes algae to grow in ponds and lakes is generally a combination of factors. Before you waste valuable time and money attempting to tackle algae on your own, talk with the experts at Aquatic Environment Consultants. We deliver results quickly with as little investment as possible.

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