BRISBANE, Australia, Jan. 29 (UPI) — Iron-rich red dirt may play a key role in massive algae blooms that form off Australia’s eastern coast during warmer months, scientists say.
The algae blooms smell bad, smother seagrass and kill fish, researchers at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, said.
The researchers are studying Poona Creek on the Fraser Coast, which drains into Great Sandy Strait, a rich wetland for migratory birds, the university said in a release Thursday. The region’s soil is rich in iron, which is believed to contribute to algae blooms, though the exact mechanism has yet to be determined.
What is known is that one type of bacteria in the waterway dissolves iron, while another type of bacteria oxidizes iron, turning it into a insoluble form that settles on the bottom of the creek, researcher Lin Chaofeng said. Learning more about how the two types of bacteria interact could help mitigate the algae blooms, Lin said.
“It seems that these two bacteria usually balance each other out, but sometimes the balance is upset,” she said.
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