Thursday, February 4, 2010
Iron rich soil in Australia plays a part in the growth of destructive Algal blooms
Australians are well aware of how algal blooms negatively effect their economy. Many scientists are studying how Australia's iron rich soil contributes to the growth of this foul smelling, fish killing algae. It is known that iron is a factor in the growth of these algal blooms, but the mechanism is not entirely understood. Scientists are approaching this question with a team of microbiologists, geochemists, and hydrologists using each of their fields to understand the growth of the destructive algae. Microbiologists are studying two types of bacteria in the water that feed on iron. One type of bacteria changes the iron into a dissolved state and the other oxidizes the iron into an insoluble form that can settle on the bottom of a creek. The oxidizing bacteria seems to make the iron less available as a contributor to the algal blooms. The two bacteria usually balance each other, but sometimes this balance is upset. This is still under investigation. Geologists are studying the iron content in the soil in search for possible mechanisms that contribute to algal growth. Hydrologists are studying the water flow to figure out how the iron gets from the soil into the water and the chemical reactions that take place when the soil hits the water. The efforts to understand the mechanism behind algal growth and how iron rich soil contributes to it may help improve Australia's economy as well as aquatic life.