'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. banasy

    Just the visual in my mind is enough to get me reaching for the Dristan and a box of Puff's Plus!

    June 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy

    It seems to me that the anglers would be falling on their asses a lot...you know the saying, "slicker than snot"?

    June 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil, Ohio

      There is a nice photo of it on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission web site. Looks like a big shinny brown snot ball.
      fish.state.pa.us/water/habitat/ans/didymo/faq_didymo.htm

      June 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil, Ohio

      ""Didymo can be found on rocks in moving water and is often mistaken for fiberglass or toilet tissue. Unlike most other algae, didymo feels like wet cotton and isn’t slimy.""

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

      Well, it shouldn't be termed as snot, lol!
      It was a silly joke. Forgive me.

      June 7, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ELH

    I used to fish Rapid Creek 50 years ago. One of the finest trout streams in the United States. I hope that the infestation can be controlled.

    June 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. funky bunch

    Dam near puked!

    June 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. emptyfridge

    cool. can we eat it?

    June 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BB

    To ALL FISHERMEN! Clean or disinfect those felt soled wading shoes before you travel across the country fishing in a new spot. Do what you can to stop spreading various aquatic organisms.
    Soak them 30 minutes submerged in very hot tap water with 5% detergent, then rinse.

    June 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boogie

      LOL...that is awesome that you think the average fisherman is going to go through all that to avoid spreading bad bacteria...unfortunately...your optimism will be met with the same amount of care as humans give all the millions of other ways we destroy our eco systems without giving two small poops.
      We are doomed by our own apathy...unless there is a major reduction in our population, life on earth is gonna be a lot less pretty over the next 50 years... 🙁

      June 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      They need to ban felt bottomed boots all together, I think they have already in some areas. But it is true, only a few will take the time to clean their boots or re-buy another pair. Luckily trout fisherman are conservationists for the most part, so I have hopes.

      June 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      If you are so negative, then nothing will get done. Each person be responsible for themselves and pass the word around.

      June 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. DoubleTap

    Will urine remove unwanted snot?

    June 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • db

      Only from inside the boots!

      June 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jingoistic Drum Banger

    All Christians pray directly to God to kill this bacteria in the USA.
    god Bless America.

    June 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • idiot

      Hahahaha. Tard alert!

      June 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samdromeda

      Before you pray it away ask for the understanding of why it is here. Then ask for the wisdom to know what to do to correct the situation.

      June 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      It contains protein, it would be cool if it could be used in it's dried form as feed somehow, if it's safe.

      June 7, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nemo

    That's snot river snot is it?...

    June 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy

    @CTOTC:

    Is River Snot related to River Phoenix?

    June 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CSnSC

    @ CTTOC and bansy et al I have truly enjoyed today between your wit and 500 Weiner jokes !

    June 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy

      Thanks. You bring a lot to the boards, yourself! 🙂

      June 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Casey'sTawdryTalesOfConquest

    Snot was River's maiden name.. God rest his soul.. I've had Joaquin Snot Estevez Phoenix as well... Swing Merrel Swing away...

    June 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy

      @CTOTC:

      You are totally cracking me up today!

      June 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bill

    If one goes on the internet and looks up Didymosphenia geminata there are plenty of photos of it. It looks more like S-t than snot.

    June 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy

      Yuck. Thanks.......just what we need........more Planet Poo.....

      June 7, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Willy

    Scoop it out and make bio fuel from it.

    June 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JERSEYTOMATO

    This is snot funny!

    June 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
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