How Does Fertilizer Affect Algae in a Pond?

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How Does Fertilizer Affect Algae in a Pond?
Fertiliser runoff can lead to overabundant algae, causing severe problems for ponds. (algae on the riverside image by McDanny from Fotolia.com)

At the mouth of the Mississippi River, a region covering as much as 7,000 square miles -- roughly the size of New Jersey -- remains devoid of life. Algae blooms due to fertiliser runoff cause the dead zone, according to Monica Bruckner, an environmental educator with Montana State University. Fertilizer can cause similar effects in freshwater ecosystems, including ponds.

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Function

Gardeners and homeowners use fertiliser to encourage rapid growth of plants. Algae, an ancient form of plant, responds no differently than its younger plant kingdom cousins: It grows, and grows quickly.

Significance

As the Gulf of Mexico dead zone illustrates, fertiliser exerts a significant effect on algae, an effect that has ramifications for the entire aquatic ecosystem. As algal growth burgeons, the algae uses up more and more oxygen, leaving nothing for other organisms. Fertiliser runoff causes the same devastating consequences for pond life.

Prevention/Solution

The best prevention of algae problems in ponds involves reducing fertiliser runoff. However, as the Ohio State University Extension notes, this isn't always possible when the runoff comes from an uncooperative neighbour's land. In that case, aquatic dyes and algicides such as Cutrine-Plus or Algae-Pro can control algae. They can also adversely affect fish populations, however, by also killing plants responsible for producing oxygen in the pond.

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