article: "action urged to combat killer algae"

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Posted by kelphead on August 03, 2001 at 19:28:08:

"action urged to combat killer algae

rex dalton
san diego
nature vol 412
19 july 2001

more than a year after invasive algae took root along the southern california coast, authorities have yet to arrange a thorough scientific study of either the algae or the programme to eradicate them.

at a workshop held on 10-11 july in san diego, a sub-panel of the u.s. aquatic nuisance species task force agreed that such studies were urgently needed to combat caulerpa taxifolia, which has infested two lagoons in southern california.

"research and peer review must go hand-in-hand with eradication and control efforts," says steve miller, director of the national undersea research center at the university of north carolina and chair of the panel, which is preparing a national action plan to fight future infestations.

c.taxifolia is indigenous to the caribbean, but a strain of the algae has already destroyed large areas of natural habitat in the mediterranean after it was inadvertently released near monaco in 1988. the fast-growing algae are toxic to some marine life and have no natural enemies in the areas they have invaded.

in california, the algal growths--some estimated to be as large as 20 tonnes--were identified in june last year (see nature 406, 447;2000).

the source of the algae is unknown, but the authorities suspect that they were dumped by aquarium enthusiasts who use them in their tanks. a bill is moving through the california legislature to outlaw the sale and possession of c.taxifolia and eight other similar algae, but it has faced opposition from the home aquarium business.

susan williams, director of bodega marine laboratory at the university of california, davis, has spent the past year pressing for research and outside peer review of the eradication effort. she says she has been unsuccessful because of resistance by some state and federal officials who want to concentrate resources on eradication.

the $1-million eradication effort involves placing tarpaulins over patches of algae and injecting chlorine underneath to kill them. there is evidence that the chlorine has killed algae under the tarpaulins, the workshop was told. but patches of the algae have also cropped up outside the tarpaulins."

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