'River snot' could damage pristine waterways, study finds
Didymo is present at many points along Rapid Creek, South Dakota.
June 7th, 2011
01:03 PM ET

'River snot' could damage pristine waterways, study finds

Some of the world's cleanest waterways may be in trouble for being so clean.

A species of fast-growing freshwater algae that lives in streams and rivers - sometimes called "river snot" - can alter food supplies to other aquatic life and hurt fisheries, according to a new report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of South Dakota Carbon Scientist fund.

Scientists such as P.V. Sundareshwar, associate professor of biogeochemistry, conducted their research in Rapid Creek, a clear mountain stream in the western part of South Dakota where the first strains of Didymo were found in 2002. Sundareshwar has been working on the project for the past four years.

"When you normally see a kind of green scum in a pond it's because there's runoff, or some pollutant causing that to happen from the outside of a body of water," he said. "But this is unusual because it's happening organically."

The formal name of the potentially damaging algae is Didymo for Didymosphenia geminata. It looks like thick mats of bacteria on the bottom of waterways and thrives in the Southern Hemisphere, from New Zealand to Chile.

"Didymo has become a major nuisance," he said. "It's so adaptable, it can dominate, virtually take over all other algae that (normally) provides a structure for the food chain in waterways. You're talking about affecting, or altering, an entire ecosystem."

He said that the problem has been especially bad in New Zealand where studies there have said that damages to fishery profits have run into the tens of millions.

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Filed under: Aquaculture • Earth • Environment
soundoff (87 Responses)

    Enjoy fresh jersey tomatoes! Stay off the river snot.

    June 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. stryker

    Let's make snot rockets and bomb other countries rivers.

    June 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chemist M

    Just go green add apple cider vinegar it breaks up snot every time.

    June 7, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. thatguyy1293

    It's been in SD for years too...not news here at all. I remember them publishing articles about it in our state fishing lawbook years ago.

    June 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mediacrat

    Hey, this stuff's organic! All we need is a recipe, and it's gone!

    June 8, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. YankinOz

    It was originally imported into NZ by careless North American fishermen who didn't properly clean their boots and equipment. For areas that rely on trout fishing for tourism dollars it is a big issue and not something to joke about. I believe there have been some reports from NZ that this past seasons heavy rain and flooding has washed Didymo out of some rivers.

    June 8, 2011 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. mstabers

    Naturally occurring algae vs man made fisheries.
    Which one doesn't belong?

    June 8, 2011 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  8. Iz Teremka Kennel

    Where did Didymosphenia geminata.come from? Was it introduced into the water by man?

    June 8, 2011 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. Susanne

    So is Didymo indigenous or imported?

    June 8, 2011 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. Susanne

    Is the Didymo indigenous to the USA or isit a released invader? What can be done to stop it? This one sounds serious.

    June 8, 2011 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. Hollywood

    Mother Nature has a strange sense of humor...

    June 8, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
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