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Sunlight cuts golden algae's toxicity that kills millions of fishes

June 16, 2011 - Washington

Sunlight decreases the toxicity of golden algae, which kills millions of fish in the southern United States every year, finds a new Baylor University study.

Experts believe that several environmental factors influence toxin production, but the new research has shown that sunlight is a key component in the magnitude and duration of the toxicity of the algae to fish. Specifically, the study found that the longer golden algae toxins are exposed to natural sunlight, the less toxic the algal toxin becomes to fish and other aquatic organisms.

"What we think happens in terms of the large fish kills is that sunlight only penetrates down so deep in a lake, so in a lake with golden algae blooms, fish located at greater depths may be exposed to more algal toxins," said study co-author Dr. Bryan Brooks, associate professor of environmental sciences and biomedical studies at Baylor and director of the environmental health sciences program.

"Golden algae is aggressive and very unique because it can produce its own toxins, swim, photosynthesize and feed on other organisms. If we can figure out what stimulates and decreases the growth of this algae, we might be able to control it," added Brooks.

The study appears online in the Journal of Plankton Research.


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