Algae is not only an important food source for aquatic life, it has also become an indicator for the ecological changes caused by human activities. We can start combating problems facing the environment by identifying the challenges and possibilities in the growing algae bloom issues.

We are in the midst of a global climate change. Every day we leave our legacies by emitting increasing amount of carbon into the atmosphere. The consequences of our action may not seem severe if warmer winters are the only tangible impacts, but an entire ocean turning green is surely noticeable enough.

A satellite picture of the Arctic ocean from three days ago shows algae bloom in the area. Global warming has increased the temperature in the arctic ocean by 36 degrees. This phenomenon has led to growing productivity in the ocean environment as reflected in the rising concentration of algae, a 47 percent increase in the past two decades. Algae provides food sources for animals in the arctic, but it also drastically alters the aquaculture.

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Algal blooms in Lake Erie and coastal regions cause large financial loss to the fishing industries and local lives. Factors that alter the water ecology and induce algal bloom include acidity, temperature and nutrient level.

Water acidity increases especially in the past 20 years are due to growing carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere. Algae bloom is a natural response to the stress in the environment. In this sense, algae is an evident indicator of the global warming effect on the environment.

We should mitigate the carbon emission with a ground-up approach by restoring the aquatic environment. Moreover, algae can be a great fuel source as we continue advancing the technology of converting lipid-dense algae into bio-fuel.

Most commonly, algal blooms occur due to nutrient run-offs. If we were to massively use algae as a fuel source, we can intentionally grow algae close to runoffs so the effluents will not even reach larger water bodies.

Developing an algae-based alternative energy source is promising because it lowers the cost of clean energy and prevents further algal bloom damage. To conquer the huge global warming issue, we can look to the tiny photosynthetic plants that have been around since the beginning of life.

Grace Li ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in biomedical engineering.