RED TIDE, SEA LETTUCE & OPTICAL BRIGHTENER
Throughout its 20 years, Three Bays Preservation, Inc., has taken opportunities to extend its mission to conserve fresh and salt-water ecosystems within the watershed, including the freshwater sources that eventually flow into salt water, such as coves, ponds, rivers and streams.
Here’s a snapshot of some of our past conservation and science programming:
- An over-abundance of Sea Lettuce led to a short-term program to remove these harmful green algae from North Bay, Warrens Cove and Prince’s Cove. This algae or lettuce is deadly to shellfish, crabs, and those unseen bottom-dwelling organisms and especially to eelgrass and shoreline vegetation. In this short-term study on sea lettuce, relevant data from global scientific and conservation organizations on removing this algae and how precisely this was done, was gathered and studied by our team here.
- No, we don’t mean toothpaste, but for a time we studied the feasibility of using a fluorescent white dye, or Optical Brightener, to detect failing septic systems in our Marstons Mills River watershed, the system that flows into Three Bays. These optical brighteners are added by laundry soap manufactures to help make clothing appear brighter. An ineffective sewage system allows laundry wastewater to seep into a subsurface environment. Specifically, the project called for testing for the presence of optical brighteners in nearby waters that would have indicated an effective natural cleaning of wastewater. For a time, Three Bays was working on the project with the Town of Barnstable’s Coastal Health Coordinator.
- In a marine ecosystem as complex and large as the Three Bays watershed, environmental events are not uncommon. Years ago, in the early fall of 2001, the alarmingly-distinguishable tingle of rusty-red water appeared in North Bay, Prince’s Cove and Oyster Harbors: a Red Ride (cochlodinium) algal bloom had arrived. Red Tide is the colloquial name for algae, or phytoplankton. Various species of phytoplankton contain dinoflagellates that contain photosynthetic pigments ranging from brown to red to green, and these aquatic microorganisms suddenly bloom in the water column in all their rusty-red infamous glory. But during that 2001 red tide bloom, it was determined that the type of dinoflagellate was not the type that had drastic effects on biota, unlike the deadly (alexandrium,) and therefore wasn’t a long-term threat to finfish or shellfish. Eventually the red tide disappeared without human intervention.