'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. shooter mcgavin

    I think this calls for a new tax. The, your water is to clean tax.

    June 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. eldono

    So, if this stuff is from Chile, what do the rivers look like in Chile?

    June 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • borisjimbo

      Possibly no problem because it was native down there and already part of the existing ecosystem, but up here it's another invasive species with no native check on its spread.

      June 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rfreedk2

    we have something in Vermont (and im sure a lot of other places) called "rock snot" which we protect. id really like to know the difference between the two, but again the lack of info in the article is impressive.

    June 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • dumb-move

      It's the same thing.. Didymosphenia geminata.

      June 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Grnhilndr-2

    Didymo is present inseveral Canadian rivers in Quebec that support Atlantic salmon. The anglers are asked to clean their waders so that the Didymo is not transferred from river to river. I was wondering if the anglers waders were rinsed in a chlorine solution or something like Chlorox might prevent its being transferring from river to river. It seems that once it gets into a river it spreads quickly. It is a very serious problem. I now use waders that do not have felt soles, which are the carriers of the Didymo. I hope they find a solution

    June 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rfreedk2

    sorry i mistyped, I meant we protect waterways "FROM" rock snot. not rock snot itself.. so my question is, if this is the same stuff?

    June 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff Lowden

    Diddymo and ROCK SNOT are the same thing. ITs ROCK SNOT not RIVER SNOT as the article says as the common nickname. Caused by anglers using felt soles on wadding boots going from an infected water to a non-infected stream. States like Maryland have already banned felt soles on wadders and boots. OTher states should / will follow soon. THis is also not new news. Been around for at least 5-6 years in VT that I know of.

    June 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • W

      Felt has not been show with statistical significance to carry more microorganisms than the rest of the boot. Under the laces, in the folds of fabric.

      You must work for a boot company. Want more sales?

      June 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • borisjimbo

      Sounds like anglers are going to have to wash their boots off in liquid chlorine bleach between streams.

      June 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. f

    Another half-ass written high school newspaper article on CNN posing as real reporting..... So where did it come form after being studied for years? How did it get from New Zealand and Chile to South Dakota? What are they doing to stop it? Etc,Etc.

    June 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. andy

    So? What is the point of this article? That nature happens or that our riverways are too clean. I know, it's Bush's fault.

    June 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Name (Withheld)

    Get the river kleenex. Problem solved.

    June 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CSnSC

    Yes, I have seen advisories prohibiting felt wader soles and instructing fishermen to soak soles in bleach

    June 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve Z

    First, it's Rock Snot, not River Snot. Either a reporter got creative or took poor notes. It is native to the Northern Hemisphere in Asia and North America in cold, LOW nutrient streams where it exists at reasonable levels. It has been transported to places like New Zealand and Chile and places in the U.S. by fishermen. Unfortunately, these are generally cold water (because the water is released from the bottoms of dams), HIGH nutrient streams where the Didymo gets out of control. Didymo is also adapting so it's behaving differently depending on the stream. Check out cvtu.org/didymo/ for more info.

    June 7, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nemo

    Its obama's stupid fault I'm sure!

    June 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jon's View

    I think I spotted some Didymo on my 3-year-old nephew's upper lip. That stuff is spreading.

    June 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • skeeter

      Jon, Unfortunately, there is MUCH more Didymo in my kids Didydiapers!

      June 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Grandpa RD

    Is that good algae? No, it's SNOT!

    June 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pink Panther

      Yeah , I was thinking the same thing 🙂

      June 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jannynet

      Good one!

      June 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Casey'sTawdryTalesOfConquest

    River Snot was years older than me and lived on the street running parallel to ours. River Snot was an only child and had made a habit of exploring the neighborhood on boring summer days. We became fast friends, practically living in each other's houses. His father, Dave, was like a big kid, always making us laugh or taking us to the zoo. Or to the movies. Or bowling. Or into the city. They were constantly smiling even though their big Victorian house seemed a bit sad. River Snot's mother had died of ovarian cancer the year before we moved in, and he rarely talked about her. However he did develop a close relationship with my mother, who still, in my opinion, loves him more than her own children. I know I had other friends as a child, but I can't seem to recall doing many things with them. What I do remember the most are memories with River Snot: our secret handshakes, our adventures, our forts. And of course, one of the first movies his dad brought us to see -The Empire Strikes Back. By the time we reached the car in the parking lot it was settled. River Snot was Han and I was Leia, without the stilted acting or kissing. Secret handshakes soon developed into serious secrets and tent sleepovers in the back yard into camping trips with our friends on high school vacations. He had girlfriends and I had boyfriends, but I suspected my relationships were never as serious as his. The few boyfriends I had before Ben left for college had only kissed me. Nothing else. Throughout it all River Snot and I were always friends. Just friends. However, it was hard to see him that way as we got older and he kept growing taller and more handsome. At his going away party the summer before he left for college our parents took a picture of the two of us together. River Snot had his arm around me and while I stood there like an awkward child. When he went away I would often look at the picture and stare at him. His strong jaw. His blue eyes. His nose with its tiny bump (a touch football game in junior high somehow got out of control). His dimples. His tan skin. His muscular arms and lean torso. By the time of the picture I had stopped growing once I hit 5'9, but he still towered over me, and his frame overpowered mine. The last night he was in town before he left for the Great Lakes I let him plow my love field with his John Deere..

    June 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
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