Each year as algae rots and stinks within the Great Brak River estuary we fall, by default, into the same way of thinking. As the complaints file in they tend to be fuelled by the same frustrations and animosity year in and year out. Voices get louder so they can hear themselves better, science is ignored and we find ourselves in a very similar feedback loop to that which the algae follow. A pattern perpetuated and fuelled by our own inputs. If we are serious in facilitating change within our estuary, self-fulfilling cycles like that of the algae and just complaining about it has to be broken.
Yes, the estuary stinks. Yes, this is caused by algae that are in its decomposition phase and the associated bacteria. We have an oversupply of nutrients in our estuary which is added to by the large algae biomass die-offs. This, in turn, fuels more algal growth, and so the pattern continues. What if we didn’t have to live like this, what if we start looking at the problem algae differently … and as resource?
Cladophora algae contain numerous beneficial fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals like calcium and magnesium as well as high proportions of nitrogen and phosphorus. This makes it a great livestock feed supplement, a rich garden top dressing or agricultural fertilizer and a food source for certain aquaponic fish species.
We have to take responsibility for our own nutrient inputs into the system and actively seek ways to remove them if we know the system is burdened. Manually removing floating algae mats at or before spawn/decomposition stage would help as it is removing the future nutrients from the system. This would not only break the cycle of continuous organic nutrient inputs into the system, especially by the algae, but in turn has the potential to form a very valuable community project.
We are literally sitting on a free resource, a by-product resulting from our impact as a species on an environment.
Great Brak River Estuary faces multiple issues complicated by humans. The matter of nutrients and algae growth is just one of them. Rotting algae stinks but try to think of it as fertilizer. We can either grow more algae with it or we can grow something else, like opportunity or sweet-smelling roses.