New Waves December 2009

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

Researchers identify what makes deadly algae more toxic

Researchers from Baylor University, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Arlington have identified a key component that increases the toxicity of golden algae (Prymnesium parvum), which kills millions of fish in the southern United States every year. The study is the first to determine what makes the deadly golden algae more potent in inland waters, according to a Baylor University news release. The results have been published the journal, “Toxicon.”

Golden algae has been found in most of the 25 major river systems throughout Texas, including Lake Whitney and Lake Waco in Central Texas, and Lake Granbury in North Texas. Experts understand that several environmental factors influence toxin production, but now new research from these scientists shows that once the toxin is released into the water, its propensity to cause harm to the environment is influenced by the lake's pH level. In fact, the toxins become more potent at higher pH, which the researchers say is interesting because blooms may actually increase pH.

Working in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Roelke at Texas A&M University and Drs. James Grover and Kevin Schug at the University of Texas at Arlington, the Baylor researchers, Theodore W. Valenti, Jr., Susan V. James, Mieke J. Lahousse, and Dr. Bryan Brooks examined the pH and toxicity of several lakes known for large golden algae fish kills. They also performed laboratory experiments to confirm observations in the field and used computational models to examine physicochemical properties of golden algae toxins at various pH. They found that as the pH level in the lakes increased so did the toxicity of the algae. In fact, the potency of the algae was nearly five times greater at a pH level of 8.5 than it was at 6.5.

To read the Baylor news release, see here. To learn more about TWRI’s efforts regarding golden algae see here.

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