Rising CO2 levels are going to pose a great danger to a variety of valuable wildlife species. On the other hand, some of them are bound to adapt to the change and continue living and spreading. A common type of blue-green algae, according to a new study from the University of Amsterdam, is going to adapt easily, but it is not such great news.
These algae, called Microcystis, actually produce toxins and their quick adaptation to the rising CO2 levels will have implications on for clean drinking water, swimming safety and freshwater ecosystems. Microcystis grows in lakes and reservoirs in summertime. Scientists took a look at them through their microscopes in both lab and lake scenarios to find any differences between algae proliferation in CO2-rich and cleaner conditions. Although it seems very simple, it is the first study of its kind to take a look at blue-green algae adaptation capabilities, which will be crucial in increasingly CO2-rich environments.
In both scenarios scientists observed Microcystis adaptation to rising CO2 levels. This algae absorbs CO2 during photosynthesis reaction and those examples, as the study revealed, that are adapted to absorb more dissolved CO2 are going to survive. Other strains of Microcystis that are better at absorbing CO2 from low concentrations fit better in CO2-poor conditions. Therefore, having in mind that CO2 levels are on the rise, it is clear that blue-green algae are going to find an easy way to adapt.
These news are a big concern as Microcystis and other similar algae pose a threat on local birds and mammals, because they produce toxins. They can also pollute freshwater, make popular swimming places unavailable, and kill fish and water flora. In fact, history already showed examples of what huge blooms of blue-green algae can do, when in 2007 they covered entire Lake Taihu and caused drinking water crisis in China.
Xing Ji, one of the researchers of the team, remembers: “I watched my mother arguing with other supermarket shoppers who all had their sights set on the last bottles of drinking water. It’s precisely because I’m aware of how poor water quality can impact society that I am happy to be doing research that can yield relevant insights”.
Knowing how different life forms will adapt to changing environment is extremely important. It will help scientists to predict possible crisis and to create ways to avoid them or to minimize the damage they create. Now new researches should follow, discussing ways to counteract proliferation of toxic blue-green algae.