Nature.com reports today that China is experiencing what they believe is the first-ever “brown tide,” or large algae bloom of brown algae. This bloom is threatening fisheries along China’s very long coast. So just in case you thought Sodus’s problem was just a quirk of the current season, you should be aware that in fact the “brown tide” is affecting three separate countries’ shorelines.
To be clear: nothing about the brown tide is similar to the Upstate area’s problems, genetically speaking. Not only are the species of algae different, the “blue-green algae” currently plaguing Sodus Bay’s waters is in fact a bacteria, not an algae. But in every case, additional run-off from fertilizer and other substrates are contributing to the issue:
In the past few decades, China’s rapid pace of population growth and agriculture development has led to more nutrients being discharged into the sea — in the form of sewage, animal manure and fertilizers. That excess has caused massive algal blooms since the 1990s, especially at the Yangtze estuary. Those blooms have had a red or green hue, known as red or green tides, because of the pigments of the algal species responsible.
“The recent brown-tide outbreaks may be the latest manifestation of increasing nutrient loads in China’s coastal waters,” says Gobler.
Not discussed in this article: what role a modest increase in oceanic temperatures might be playing.