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Toxic blue-green algae: The "problem" in perspective

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  • Ecology
  • Pollution


The incidence of blue-green algal blooms and surface scum-formation are certainly not new phenomena. Many British and European authors have been faithfully describing the unmistakable symptoms of blue-green algal scums for over 800 years. There is no disputing that blue-green algal toxins are extremely harmful. Three quite separate categories of compound have been separated: neurotoxins; hepatotoxins and lipopolysaccharides. There is a popular association between blue-green algae and eutrophication. Certainly the main nuisance species - of Microcystis, Anabaena and Aphanizomenon are rare in oligotrophic lakes and reservoirs. Several approaches have been proposed for the control of blue-green algae. Distinction is made between methods for discharging algae already present (eg algicides; straw bales; viruses; parasitic fungi and herbivorous ciliates), and methods for averting an anticipated abundance in the future (phosphorous control, artificial circulation etc).

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