'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)
  1. Jazzzzzzzz

    Excuse me but that green stuff is my green snot.

    June 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • lauradet

      That's a lot of green snot! You must have a headache.

      June 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzz

      @ lauradet , Thanks my evil NEMISIS ... I'm the real Jazz

      June 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jazzzzzzzz

    I'm Jesse's girl.

    June 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      what does that mean?

      June 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      @ Nck... Rick Springfield a very popular 80"s singer who also did General Hospital, had a song called "Jesse's girl". youtube it. BTW, he was and still is a SMOKIN GUY.

      June 8, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. Denizen Kate

    Once again, CNN astounds with their lack of information. This article fails to cite the cause of this didymo algae, and also fails to mention what, if anything, scientists are doing about it. This article may as well be in one of those friinge tabloids with headlines like "Alien Baby Eats My Shorts."

    June 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • heyitsme

      You didn't bother to read this did you, you skimmed it and jumped right to the comments section.... So, it's happening NATURALLY within our water ways, and basically there is NOTHING that can be done with it – however, they are studying what they CAN do with it, just know that its a problem that happens NATURALLY and there is technically nothing wrong with the water ways, which is what normal people think when they see something out of the ordinary. I hate comments like yours – honestly.

      June 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlos

      Its not occuring "naturally" its occuring because the waters are lacking oxygen and becoming more acidic. Thats not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Its due to an increase in carbon and our need to cut down trees which is the Earth's NATURAL way of removing carbon from our environment while replacing with oxygen...which we all need to survive. Have you had your pH checked lately

      June 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • CSnord

      You noticed that, too, huh?

      June 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Scott

    LMFAO

    June 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. G

    So algae blooms are a problem in clean water and in polluted water. Basically we're screwed.

    June 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howard

      People scoffed at M. Night Shyamalan's movie about nature striking back at humans, but stories like this suggest it's not so far fetched. Striking back? No, but reacting adversely? Hmmmm.

      June 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sheikyerboutie

    Nothin to sneeze about!

    June 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hellotiki

    Boogers? No! It's not! (snicker, snicker.)

    June 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. crabman

    soooooooooooooooooooooo i guess we can sue mother nature???????????????

    June 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    I met a girl once who had cave snot.

    June 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. the Laughing Prospector

    Ha ha ha...burp...ha ha ha...burp... ha ha ha...burp... It came off my gold pan. Ha ha ha...burp...ha ha ha...burp... ha ha ha...burp...

    June 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CSnSC

    Theres snot in them thar hills !

    June 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Canadian Genius

    This story is great if you imagine the scientist with an Indian accent. I don't know if he really has one, but –

    June 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jannynet

      I realize this is a serious subject, but some of the comments are hilarious, and yes I can hear the guy with the accent.

      June 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. skippy

    It sure would be a shame to lose such natural beauty in this great country. I hope that something can be done to correct this. Just don't let the GOVERNMENT get involved!!! Seems odd for something that thrives in the South Hem. to be in South Dakota!!

    June 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TNFisher

    I don't know a river with Didymo that doesn't have lots of fish. The tailwaters in Tn and Ky are filled with it yet the freestones in the same area have no didymo. The "rock snot" scare is made up to make the government look like they are looking after our rivers. The wader boot companies love the scare so they can sell more boots

    June 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. J. R. Ewing

    Fancy meeting you here TNFisher.

    June 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
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