What are Algae?

The term “algae” covers many different organisms capable of producing oxygen through photosynthesis (the process of harvesting light energy from the sun to generate carbohydrates). Algae occur in a variety of forms and sizes from the microscopic (microalgae) like phytoplankton, to large seaweeds (macroalgae), such as giant kelp.

One key factor affecting the growth of algae is the amount of available nutrients, typically phosphorus. One of the main issues with the Bay of Quinte has always been the amount of phosphorus entering it from a variety of rural and urban sources. Phosphorus is essential to all life but in excess amounts it causes problems like, too much algae.

What are Blue-Green Algae?

Blue-Green AlgaeBlue-green algae are bacteria, but have features in common with algae. Although often blue-green, the algae can range in colour from olive-green to red. The first recognized species were blue-green in colour, hence their scientific name cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria act like algae in that they photosynthesize and utilize light and nutrients, such as phosphorous and nitrogen for growth; however, they are bacteria. High nutrient levels, warm water temperatures and high light levels — or a combination of all three factors — may stimulate the rapid reproduction of cyanobacteria forming a large mass called a harmful algae bloom.

Only laboratory analysis can determine whether or not a bloom is toxic. Therefore, it is prudent to be cautious about blue-green algae blooms. Although many varieties of cyanobacteria are relatively harmless, blooms of cyanobacteria may contain algae species with the potential to produce toxins which may be harmful to human health and the health of animals.

To report Blue-Green Algae in the Bay of Quinte call the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks at (613) 962 – 9208 during business hours or (800) 268 – 6060 after hours

For more information on blue-green algae: