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.



We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Utah Drought

Sprinkler goes off, wondering when to turn on sprinklers?...

Adam Small

Don’t turn on the sprinklers just yet, expert says

Wondering when to turn on sprinklers now that we've been having warmer weather? Follow these guidelines to keep your lawn alive while still conserving water.

21 hours ago

Warm weather will all for some of the Utah snowpack to begin melting off this weekend....

Adam Small

Utah temperatures warming up, strong snowpack set to start melting

Temperatures in Utah are going to get much warmer over the next few days, allowing for the snowpack we've accumulated to start melting off.

5 days ago

A screenshot from the Utah Division of Natural Resources website shows information about Panguitch ...

Kira Hoffelmeyer and Michael Camit

Panguitch Lake dam has a growing crack, residents on notice to evacuate

Some people in Garfield County are on standby to evacuate this morning because of growing concerns about a crack in the Panguitch Lake Dam.

6 days ago


Curt Gresseth

Eubank gazes into snow globe to predict spring runoff in Utah

KSL Meteorologist Kevin Eubank talks about the abundant snowpack and what to expect from the spring runoff in Utah.

11 days ago

Patricia Council's North Las Vegas yard after her grass was replaced with artificial turf, on Frida...

Heather Peterson

Is there a war brewing over artificial grass in Salt Lake City?

Some people in Salt Lake City are being asked to pull out their artificial grass, and they are not happy about it.

12 days ago

Deer Creek Reservoir in Wasatch County pictured, flooding in utah possible this year...

Adam Small

Utah water managers less worried about spring flooding, but it’s still possible

Flooding in Utah is less of a concern this year because there is so much less water in the snowpack than in 2023.

18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

Artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

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