Fun in the sun (and slime)
July 25th, 2011
10:44 AM ET

Thick, green algae covers 200 square miles of Yellow Sea

Almost 200 square miles (500 square kilometers) of the Yellow Sea off China are covered by a massive bloom of green algae, according to a report from China's Xinhua news service.

The bloom has spread to almost 7,400 square miles (19,050 square kilometers) in total and is expected to grow, Xinhua reported, citing the North China Sea Marine Forecasting Center of State Oceanic Administration.

The algae bloom threatens marine life as it sucks oxygen from the water although the algae itself is not poisonous, according to the Xinhua report.

Researchers don't know what causes the massive algae blooms, first seen in the Yellow Sea in 2007.

Tons of the green algae had to be removed in 2008 to make way for sailing events at the Summer Olympics.

"We don't know where it originated and why it's suddenly growing so rapidly," Bao Xianwen from the Qingdao-based Ocean University of China, told the China Daily earlier this month. "It must have something to do with the change in the environment, but we are not scientifically sure of the reasons."

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soundoff (427 Responses)
  1. Ag-Enviro Scientist

    I, along with others, have been working on the source of the similar problem in the Gulf of Mexico. It is caused by high levels on nitrogen (nitrates mostly) from ag fields and cities entering fresh water streams and rivers that terminate at the Gulf. Marine waters are nitrogen limited for algal growth (most fresh water is phosphorus limited). Individual algae cells don't live long, so in massive blooms there is also massive death. The algae are then decomposed by aerobic microbes, which use what little O2 is dissolved in the water. That causes hypoxia, and then anoxia in the water. All O2 breating creatures that can't move to another area with more O2 then die.Look up Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia and there are reams of material that explain the situation - and better yet - the papers written such as I and others have done to mitigate this problem that exists in many bays and estuaries across the world (proper ag land management is the key here for the Gulf). For this situation in the Yellow Sea, you can bet that a new source of nitrogen has been introduced into the fresh waters that feed it.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • TPaliciusV

      May I ask a question of you?

      If Algae are indeed plants (CO2 breathing) then when they breath in the CO2 and expel O2 as a waste product, then die. Doesn't that take what CO2 is in their bodies and dump it on the sea floor where they eventually fossilize into fossil fuels? One of the big problems with Global warming is us taking the fossilized plants that have CO2 in them when they died like the Algae should now and are burning it and releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Algae is reversing this process by consuming CO2 and taking it with them to the ocean floor where CO2 levels are also high like in fossil fuels and where many fossil fuels are abundant.

      Wouldn't we want Algae to do this as a means of reversing Global Warmings effects? (my question) I don't think stopping it is a good thing to be honest.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • TPaliciusV

      Sorry I forgot this last bit.

      I think Global Warming may be why events with Hypoxia and this huge Algae bloom are happening so often as Algae use CO2 to survive and it's quite abundant with all the destruction of the rain forests and burning of fossil fuels happening. I may be wrong but I think I'm right.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. GMO crops are needed

    GMO plants designed to fix their own nitrogen won't need nitrate-containing fertilizers and can reduce or eliminate agricultural runoff in all parts of the world. Science-ignorant people, however, have done a great job (especially in Europe and then spread to Africa) of spreading fear in the minds of people to adopt using GMO crops. Our planet IS dying now from fertilizer runoff, pesticide application and using all the groundwater to irrigate fields. GMO plants aren't going to "grow wild" and take over the planet and yes, a few unlucky people might have a bad reaction to the protein present allowing for fixation purposes or drought resistance or pest resistence. Lots of people are allergic to normal peanuts. Should we ban peanuts too? Wake up people and be open to using GMO crops. They will allow us to clean up our planet and they look and taste just like regular crops.

    July 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Your must work for Monsanto. Yes, let's put all our eggs in one basket by relying on a single strain of GMO everything for our food.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Windy Peterson

      No we should ban all GMO products.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |

      GMO foods include all cultivated food plants. Wheat, Corn, Rice, etc were all developed by our ancestors selecting and breeding the plants which provided the greatest benefit. Cattle, Chickens, Pigs, etc as well. So if you are truly committed to not ingesting GMO foods, you had better starting hunting and foraging.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. cpc65

    Lunch and a swim all in one. Yummy!

    July 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. gung hoe

    Perfect solution these big head carp that china sent us that is going to destroy the great lakes gather them up and ship them back algae is right on their diet

    July 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. leeintulsa

    Recently several of our lakes were closed due to large 'blue-green' algae blooms. Harmful to people and pets. Not the same stuff?

    July 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Blue-Green Algae is actually a type of bacteria. The Green Algae you see in this story is related to seaweed.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. narf

    Well, if a chinese official says its not toxic, then it must not be toxic. They've never lied before, right?

    July 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • snowleopard

      ...and our government always tells the truth....hmmmmmmmmm

      July 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    Usually one limiting factor becomes abundant and turns loose a population of algae.. they of course grow till it becomes in short supply again... Algal mats shade other phytoplankton and artificially out compete other life forms for areas they are in. There really is going to be a problem here when this bloom dies off.. that much bio-mass could putrify a signifigant amount of water beyond what is currently covered.. an anoxic mass that simply kills everything in the water... these are the type of things that tipping points in ecology orbit around.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erika

      F environmentalists a selfish bunch of a holes.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. alex

    This is such a shame. In China, environmentalists are loosing the race against the destruction of the environment.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. blessedgeek


    July 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Erika

    I can't stand the so-called environmentalists. They are bunch of selfish people. They want to save the species so they can fish and put them in zoos for their children and grandchildren. I NEVER HEARD THEM SAYING THEY WANT TO SAVE THE ANIMALS SO THEY CAN HAVE A LIFE AND BE LEFT ALONE.They are NOT nice people. Nice people want to leave the animals alone so they can live in peace in their environment, their families and their own societies. EVERY TIME i HEAR SOMEONE IS WORRIED ABOUT A SPECIES DYING BECAUSE THEY WANT TO USE THEM, FISH THEM, HUNT THEM OR EAT THEM I FEEL LIKE PUKING. There you have it. EAT ALGEA!

    July 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      As an environmentally concerned scientist, I've never had any of these ideas, Erika. One wonders if you aren't projecting these thoughts onto environmentalists from your own mind. You seem to be full of anger for some reason.

      The reason animals are in zoos is because there's little habitat left for them in the wild. Are you aware that more tigers, for example, live now in zoos than survive in the wild? This is due to habitat loss rather than environmentalists wanting to keep them in zoos. If there's no place left for wild animals to live safely without interference from humans, sometimes they have to be preserved in zoos so they don't become completely extinct in the world. The hope is that from zoo stocks the wild can one day be repopulated.

      Human beings now outnumber RATS on this planet. The real problem is people. There are too many of us. Something needs to be done about this problem, and soon. Think about that, Erika. People aren't endangered.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erika

      If you really loved animals you would not do that to them. You would create livable reserves where they can life free AND are protected. This is just a stupid excuse to make money satisfying people's curiosity while torturing the animals. How would YOU like to live your life on a few square foot concrete while being ogled by people? How would you like to be a bird that was born to fly be confined to a tiny cage? Do you have blue eyes? How would you like to spend your whole life in a cage without the possibility of having a family because somebody wants to preserve blue-eyed humans?

      July 25, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. J3sus Sandals

    Nature's soylent green.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Skipper

    Sounds like they need new "researchers". It's not rocket science.... The cause is excess nutrients in the water – nitrogenous wastes and phosphates.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Erika

    As far as scientists are concerned. Haven't we been told that there is no life without light? We have been given an elaborate explanation why and how it works. TURNS OUT, there IS life without it. Too bad. Scientists have to come up with another explanation.....
    I am sure if fish didn't exist, we would be told life in water is IMPOSSIBLE, let alone in salt water. How could it be possible when you need air to breathe in order to stay alive? And how bad is salt for you. It would kill you to live in salt water.

    I take everything scientists say and DON'T PROVE with a grain of salt. No pun intended. As far as algea creating or using up oxygen. They are still debating it, depending on what fits in with their theories.

    July 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • jack

      get off my internet, go back to school.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erika

      Typical condescending remark for lack of arguments.

      July 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Part of me thinks you are simply talking the mickey here, as the alternative is actually quite hard to fathom, but for the sake of humanity, let me refine what was previously put forth – go TO school.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Simon

    Just let China stew in their own ....

    July 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chuanmin Hu

    There is actually no mystery about this green algae bloom in the Yellow Sea. First, it occurs every year at least since 2000. Second, it is caused by aquaculture of the seaweed Nori. See the research article:
    If the reporter did some background check he/she would find several articles with the same conclusions.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
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