Large Scale Experiment Launched To Monitor Impact Of Climate Change On Freshwater Systems

Scientists at the University of Liverpool are conducting a two year project in collaboration with scientists from Belgium, Germany, Norway, Iceland and Denmark, to assess whether a predicted rise in climate temperature for the United Kingdom (UK) and parts of Europe will increase the toxicity of algae in the country's lakes and ponds, according to a Jan. 18 announcement.

The project -- the largest climate change experiment in Europe to date -- is based at Ness Botanic Gardens (part of the University of Liverpool) and will involve testing a type of algae in 48 heated water tanks.

Scientists will examine whether a rise in climate temperature will increase the growth of blue-green algae -- known as cyanobacteria -- many species of which are toxic and can affect fish, snails and other lake dwellers. It also has been known to cause irritation of the skin, headaches and sickness in humans and certain animals.

"There is limited knowledge about the impact of global climate change on freshwater systems. Many lakes in Europe have suffered problems with blue-green algae through the introduction of fertilizers, discharges from farms and organic chemicals such as washing powder into the water. We now need to look at how these problems may be exacerbated with an increase in temperature," said Dr. Heidrun Feuchtmayr, who is conducting the project with a team from the School of Biological Sciences.

Pets or livestock drinking toxic lake water can suffer skin irritation and severe disorders involving the circulatory, nervous and digestive systems. In extreme cases, the effects can prove fatal. Humans are also affected by blue-green algae. Military training in lakes containing toxic algae has induced sickness in soldiers, such as vomiting, abdominal pain and sore throats, the researchers said.

For additional information, contact the School of Biological Sciences at

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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