A University of New Brunswick (UNB) researcher believes that this summer’s abnormally high temperatures and heavy rains have led to the unusual blue green algae conditions she’s observed along the Saint John River.
“Anecdotal evidence that the Canadian Rivers Institute’s been gathering for the last 20, 21 years that they’ve been on the river suggests that they just haven’t seen anything like this before so we really can’t know what it’s going to mean is this a good thing or a bad thing,`” Janice Lawrence, a UNB marine biology researcher, said in an interview on Wednesday.
There are no algae blooms visible along the river, which is very unusual for this time of year.
She explained that the water levels are so high, the benthic mats beneath the surface aren’t getting the sunlight they need to produce blooms.
Without blooms, the algae produces less of a toxin that can be potentially harmful to humans and animals.
However, she and other researchers have observed the presence of benthic mats on parts of the river where they haven’t been observed in the past, something she also links to heavy rainfall.
She says those walking their dogs near bodies of water should still exercise caution, as this summer’s high temperatures could jump start the growth of the algae blooms.
“They do seem to be growing now and if the water levels drop to more seasonal levels we do expect them to grow very rapidly,” she said.
Roxanne MacKinnon, a biologist who works with ACAP Saint John, an environmental non-profit that monitors the condition of the Saint John River, said that dogs often fall victim to the toxins from the algae because they are attracted to the blooms.
“They`re very attracted to the smell of cyanobacteria so they are the most likely animal to come in contact with them. They actually seek them out and they will ingest the material,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.
“And then if it`s producing a toxin they will be ingesting a lot of toxins because they’re ingesting the cells themselves, and then unfortunately they can potentially come into contact with the neurotoxin which will shut down their respiratory system.”
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