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Do Specific Types of Phosphorus Trigger Toxic Cyanobacterial Blooms in the Great Lakes?

New research aims to unravel how phosphorus pollution drives toxic blooms of cyanobacteria in the Great Lakes. The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has awarded New York-based Stony Brook University the first year of an anticipated three-year, nearly $500,000 project to determine how different kinds of phosphorous trigger toxic blooms.

The project will focus on Microcystis, which frequently causes massive, unsightly green water discoloration in Lakes Erie and Lake Ontario.  It sometimes produces toxins that can cause acute and chronic illness in humans and is a growing problem that impacts drinking water and recreation worldwide.

It has long been known that phosphorus stimulates excessive growth or blooms this species. The researchers will use new molecular tools to test whether specific forms of phosphorus cause Microcystis to grow or become more toxic and whether controlling those forms might reduce blooms or their toxicity.

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