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Sea Sparkles Threaten Tasmanian Preservation Bay's Ecosystem

First Posted: Mar 18, 2017 04:43 AM EDT
Tasmania Bay: Ghostly Blue Glow Can Be A Sign Of Trouble
The glowing blue light in Tasmanian Preservation Bay is caused by the blooming of Noctiluca scintillans algae, also referred to as sea sparkle.
(Photo : Science and more/YouTube screenshot)

Tasmanian Preservation Bay in Australia is partly enveloped by a glowing blue light on its waters and looks very enchanting and beautiful. On the other hand, this signifies danger as this blue glow emanates from bioluminescent algae that could threaten the marine food webs.

The blue light is discharged by Noctiluca scintillans, which is a microscopic plankton, also referred to as sea sparkle. It gives off light when it is disturbed. Sea sparkles may trigger skin irritation in swimmers. They could also be damaging to the ecosystem, according to CBS News.

In the previous study in 2014, the researchers stated that the N. scintillans blooms could upset the diatom-sustained food chain to the disadvantage of regional fisheries and also the well-being of the ecosystem that sustains a coastal population of almost 120 million people. This study was printed in the journal Nature.

Meanwhile, Gustaaf Hallegraeff, a professor of aquatic botany at the University of Tasmania, believes that the flashing mechanism of the algae is to intimidate the predators. He added that N. scintillans eats other species. In case there are many of them, they could be just like a vacuum cleaner that consumes all the other plankton. He cited an example that on the east coast of Tasmania, the shellfish farmers were complaining that following this bloom of alga, the shellfish were hungry because they had nothing to eat, as noted by ABC.

Sea sparkles emit not the only blue but sometimes green or red as well. Currently, the researchers are watching over these. Meanwhile, some people have visited the bay and have taken photos of the blue light shimmering on the waters of the bay. 

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