Summer heat can cause algae blooms.


Summer heat can cause algae blooms.

The first five and a half months of this year have seen the temperatures in our area stay on the cooler side of the seasonal spectrum, but here in the last couple weeks we’ve had more days than not break the 90-degree bubble.

For people who lamented the below-zero thermometer readings and enjoy soaking up the sun, this has been a welcome change, but for others, myself included, I’d trade the sticky summer sauna for a crisp fall day in a heartbeat.

Sun-loving humans aren’t the only ones enjoying this climatic shift. If you own a pond or live near a lake, you have undoubtedly noticed a change in the aquatic ecosystems from all this warm weather. The summer heat coupled with longer days and the large amount of rainfall we’ve experienced have created the perfect conditions for algae and aquatic plant growth, and I have received several calls recently regarding this sudden explosion of growth.

Most aquatic plants start reaching maximum growth potential once water temperatures rise above 70 degrees or so, and the recent storms have carried a lot of nutrients off lawns and fields into bodies of water. Fertilizer for your grass has the same effect on aquatic plants if it enters a pond or lake, so when we get runoff from heavy rains, this can lead to explosive algae blooms.

Lake Erie and Buckeye Lake are in the news quite frequently when blooms of cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, can lead to harmful levels of the microcystin toxin in the water. This toxin can be harmful to humans and animals if the concentration reaches a high enough level, but luckily this occurs primarily in large, nutrient-rich bodies of water and is not very common in small private ponds and lakes.

Most problems homeowners face are caused by true aquatic plants or the ubiquitous filamentous algae that can form the mats of floating “moss” that plague fishermen and swimmers every summer. Another common problem that creates concern among pond owners is often an infestation of duckweed and watermeal that will completely cover a pond’s surface and create a “scummy” look from a distance. Both of these issues can be unsightly and create problems for aquatic life, but pose no health threat to humans.

Additionally, there are a host of other aquatic plants, both submergent and emergent, that can detract from aesthetics and water quality that often pop up in the summer months. While a certain level of aquatic vegetation is beneficial to fish and other aquatic life, too much growth can not only restrict use of the water body, but also can lead to oxygen crashes and fish kills.

I frequently make site visits to ponds around the county this time of year when landowners experience problems with aquatic vegetation. This service is available for anyone in the county and appointments can be made by contacting me at the Soil and Water office.

Tommy Springer is the conservation technician and wildlife specialist for the Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at 740-653-8154.