Dust from Great Salt Lake helps algal blooms thrive, study finds

Feb 7, 2024, 7:30 AM | Updated: 7:47 am

Algal bloom dangers...

sign warns of a dangerous algal bloom. (KSL file photo)

(KSL file photo)

Researchers at Utah State University say it’s a growing problem, thanks to ongoing drought and construction.

“We wanted to know where this material is going and how it might be impacting these remote ecosystems,” Janice Brahney, an associate professor of environmental biogeochemistry at Utah State University said.

She began gathering samples from water systems across the western U.S. in 2017.

“Unequivocally. We saw that dust additions can lead to eutrophication,” Brahney said.

Eutrophication is a process where excessive nutrients lead to dense growth of plant life, killing off animal life due to a lack of oxygen, something Utah has seen more of in recent years.

“We found that the additional nutrients added by dust increase the tolerance ranges of the organism so that it could grow much more effectively under conditions it normally wouldn’t,” Brahney said.

Essentially, this acts as a catalyst for algal blooms. And that includes all kinds of dust, from construction and agricultural work to mining and even the bed of the shrinking Great Salt Lake.

Brahney said the wind picks up the smaller particles that tend to be higher in nutrients, which may also help explain why we’re seeing blooms in areas where we haven’t before.

“For the first time in the last couple of years, alpine systems in Wyoming have been experiencing toxic algal blooms,” Brahney added.

Continue reading at ksltv.com.



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Dust from Great Salt Lake helps algal blooms thrive, study finds