Hong Kong Weather June
A mesmerizing blue light is illuminating Hong Kong’s waters, but the lights aren’t just beautiful. Marine biologists are saying they’re potentially toxic.
This stunning light is a strong indicator a harmful algal bloom is present. Noctiluca scintillans, also known as Sea Sparkle, is known to create this type of bloom.
Noctiluca is a single-celled organism and a wonder in itself, as it functions as both a plant and animal. The organism can act and look like algae, even though, it is not.
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These types of blooms are triggered by farm pollution that can be devastating to marine life and local fisheries, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye, who was shown Associated Press photos of the glowing water.
"Those pictures are magnificent. It's just extremely unfortunate that the mysterious and majestic blue hue is created by a Noctiluca, " Joye wrote in an email Thursday.
This Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 photo made with a long exposure shows the glow from a Noctiluca scintillans algal bloom along the seashore in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
This is part of a problem that is growing worldwide, said Joye and other scientists.
Noctiluca is a type of single-cell life that eats plankton and is eaten by other species. The plankton and Noctiluca become more abundant when nitrogen and phosphorous from farm run-off increase.
Unlike similar organisms, Noctiluca doesn't directly produce chemicals that can attack the nervous system or parts of the body.
But recent studies show it is much more complicated and links them to blooms that have been harmful to marine life. Noctiluca's role as both prey and predator can eventually magnify the accumulation of algae toxins in the food chain, according to oceanographer R. Eugene Turner at Louisiana State University.
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