2001-08-18 / Letters

Is Algae Relevant?

Is Algae Relevant?

Dear Editor;

The photo of "Algae Engulfing Bay Area" July28 page 24 has relevancy to the disappearing wetlands islands. But the caption needs correction and elaboration. Nitrogen compounds are used as fertilizers on farms along with other chemicals including phosphorous compounds. The sewage treatment plants provide these fertilizer chemicals to Jamaica Bay in excessive amounts. So, for years, people have noticed the lush lengthy growths of Ulva or otherwise called sea lettuce. Its food for small fish and crabs and maybe feeds into the winter flounder population success the Jamaica Bay is known for.

But this fertilizer is too much of a good thing and causes algal blooms (of single cell algae) which die and decay at the bottom of the bay and use up oxygen.

These fertilizers can cause a marine grass that grows below the low tide line in shallow water to grow more plentifully. But at higher concentrations, blight is encouraged which destroys the leaves. The grass is called Eel Grass and too much nitrogen and brown water (turbid) as is found in Jamaica Bay now kills it. So it would be hard to restore back into the bay.

The marsh island grasses (Cord Grass) are known to have a capacity to absorb and use fertilizers and other chemicals and even cleanse polluted water in constructed facilities. But maybe here also its become too much of a good thing and so he amount of fertilizers in the bay have to be reduced! NYC Department of Environmental Protection has pilot projects being tested to do this. But it’s too slow a process to wait forever for. Meanwhile its thought that the mats of sea lettuce on the wetlands islands (growing or washing in) may be having a negative effect on the Cord Grass growth and this has to be explored too by scientists of the Blue Ribbon Pannel.

Thank you for your attention.

BERNARD J. BLUM


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