First came the nettles. Now, algae blooms are coloring the lower Chesapeake Bay. They happen every summer but Virginia Institute of Marine Science is reporting it’s the most intense and wide spread in a decade.
The aerial photos of Chesapeake Bay algae blooms by VIMS professors are stunning.
They found that the blooms reach from the York River to the mouth of the Rappahannock River, across the Bay to within about four miles of Cape Charles. They reach down to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. And the York River seems to be the “epicenter,” reportswith VIMS news.
Algal blooms are also called “red tides.” They’re a dense cluster of tiny marine plants called algae that contain reddish pigment. Some algal species also produce chemicals that generate light and sometimes you can see the “bioluminescence” at night.
“Reports of algal blooms in the lower York River started around July 22nd,” Malmquist writes.
This situation has become common over the years, scientists say, because of more nutrients — mainly fertilizer and sewage — being washed into the Chesapeake Bay. This summer, they’ve found the western side of the Bay is blooming most densely.
Researchers have been looking at the issue since a bloom was reported in the mid-1940s. Another was conclusively found in the mid-1960s. Algal blooms have now become an annual summer traditions, but not to this extent or density.
The blooms are made up of a mix of algal species. Some may be toxic while others may not be. It could depend on environmental conditions. VIMS researchers are still trying to figure it out. They’re working with NOAA along with other agencies and research centers to determine the impact of the bloom on oysters and other Chesapeake Bay creatures.
VIMS has a series of videos showing the algae blooms, including the one below of staff kayaking at night through bioluminescence in the waters of the York River caused by a dense bloom of the alga. They also have video of what these algae look like close up.
Photos, map & video used with permission of Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
The Chesapeake Bay Program created this video to explain algae blooms and their impact.