A recent satellite image of the Baltic Sea has identified a bloom of algae covering more than 234,000 square miles (basically the size of Germany). It’s the largest bloom since 2005 according to BBC News.
The bloom is expected to be temporary because the algae will likely break apart when winds pick up and temperatures decrease in the Baltic. But this raises the question of what will happen to the remaining algae.
One option for disposal is to convert it into biofuel, a renewable form of energy. This energy could be used in a number of ways, including as a substitute for diesel fuel in cars.
In fact, according to Exxon, it is possible that algae could yield more than 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre of production each year.
The U.S. Military is currently researching ways to produce this energy for the same cost as petroleum-based fuel. The White House has also set a goal of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, but there are still questions about the quality of this fuel in cars.
If the algae is not removed from the Baltic, it would likely pose environmental issues to marine life. Although algae are naturally occurring organisms and are found in abundance in the form of seaweed, they restrict both the sunlight and oxygen that can be accessed by other sea creatures.
Some algae are also poisonous to fish and animals, which means an increase in algae also increase the likelihood of toxicity that can affect humans who eat seafood.
In the case of this Baltic Sea algae, researchers have determined that the growth is due in part of run-off from agricultural land where the water contains fertilizer. Similar to how fertilizer helps plants grow, the nutrients in fertilizer can increase the level of algae.
Officials are advising people not to bathe in areas where algae is visible, over fears of the impact on human health. The Sea borders approximately 10 European countries.