Off the south coast of Australia, Tasmania’s Preservation Bay is radiating a crystal blue which comes from the bioluminescent algae. Even though it’s quite a spectacular sight, the increasing bioluminescent algae is concerning to the marine life.
Bioluminescent algae are called Noctiluca scintillans, which are microscopic, marine planktonic that come from the dinoflagellate species, which is commonly known as sea sparkle. These microscopic plankton don’t glow blue all the time. They are believed to radiate a blue light as a defense mechanism when they are disturbed or when trying to scare off any predators.
Sea sparkle isn’t known to be toxic or harmful to humans, however, they may cause irritation to the skin for those who swim among them.
It is not so much as what bioluminescent algae can do to humans, but what it can do the marine life, especially their ecosystems. The increasing numbers of these microscopic algae is concerning to see. It is an indication of the warming temperatures in the water and water with low oxygen levels.
Bioluminescent algae thrive in water with low levels of oxygen and a steady water column. These algae feed off other plankton and since there has been an increase of algae they are behaving much like a vacuum cleaner absorbing everything.
The marine life where the bioluminescent algae is present disrupts the basis of the food chain that can create a ripple effect through the food web up to the larger fish people eat.
Once the sea sparkle begins to die and decompose, they release their ammonia-rich contents into the water which is toxic. Bioluminescent algae strip the water from oxygen, de-oxygenated, which is already low considering they strive in water with low levels. Low oxygen levels are harmful to other marine species and fish farmers since it moves its way up the food chain. These algae have killed more fish than any other fish.
The effect of the bioluminescent algae in the south coast of Australia is yet to be determined but there are researchers who are keeping an eye on the algae. As there have already been massive outbreaks of bioluminescent algae in other areas such as the Arabian Sea.