Baltic algae “could be beaten with oxygen”

The increasing problem with algae in the Baltic sea could be solved with oxygen. The solution is to artificially infuse the sea water with oxygen, claim a number of scientists.

The lack of oxygen in the Baltic Sea is one of the main reasons behind the blooming algae. When the oxygen disappears, great swathes of phosphors are released from the sediment on the sea floor.

The phosphors then encourage the nasty blue green algae, or cyanobacteria.

“Purely technically it’s completely possible,” said Anders Stigebrandt, a professor at Gothenburg University.

“Deep water could be pumped up to the surface with the help of wave energy and oxygenated. The cost would probably be around a billion kronor a year but Sweden is hardly going to be the only country to pay for such a measure.”

Stigebrandt was speaking at a science seminar in Stockholm on Tuesday. The seminar was organised by the World Wildlife Fund and had the objective of creating a dialogue about practical solutions to existing problems.

But one existing problem which may need to be overcome first is that the scientists are far from united about what ought to be done.

One group from Stockholm university reckons that nitrogen leakages from agriculture are the main cause of the proliferating algae. Their solution, which is also the official Swedish policy on the matter, is simply to reduce the nitrogen supply.

But Anders Stigebrandt and his colleagues in Gothenburg believe that such a policy is in itself dangerous and would just create more nitrogen-fixated algae.

“We would want an increased supply of nitrogen to the Baltic Sea,” said Stigebrandt.

While the Stockholm bunch think that would be an extremely dangerous experiment, they agree that oxygenation, if it proves to be possible, would be a good thing.

For its part, the WWF wants the Swedish government to set aside a new “Baltic billion” which could be invested where it would bring about the greatest benefit. The organisation also called for an action plan for the Baltic sea, along the same lines as that which already exists for the Mediterranean.

TT/The Local