Every summer, blue-green algae plagues surface waters in the Netherlands. Blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) can be harmful to human and animal health. Official swimming water locations are often closely monitored, but blue green algae can also flourish in places where there is less or no supervision. Therefore, scientists from Wageningen University & Research have developed a free app where you can now report blue green algae in your environment.
The scientists ask people to download the free Bloomin' Algae app and report details of suspected blue green algae blooms with a photo. Blue-green algae can be identified by a blue-green to reddish-brown paint-like layer floating on the surface of the water. They can occur naturally in ponds, lakes, rivers, reservoirs and canals and are toxic to anyone who swallows or has skin contact with contaminated water. People who come in contact with the blue-green algae, such as swimmers and surfers, may experience skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or muscle and joint pain. Blooms of blue-green algae can cause deaths of fish, waterfowl, horses, dogs and other animals.
Send photo via app
The new app should help speed up the warning process to reduce risks to humans and animals. Submitted data is immediately available for viewing on a map in the app. A team of blue-green algae experts will quickly verify it and inform the person who reported the sighting whether it is blue-green algae or not. App users can also set up notifications of confirmed blooms of blue-green algae in surface waters in their area. The Bloomin' Algae app does not yet offer a complete overview of all blue-green algae locations in the Netherlands, but only of those locations that are reported via the app.
Fast, early warning
"With the app, we can warn more quickly about blue green algae. This helps water sports enthusiasts, dog owners and others to safely enjoy the natural environment," said Miquel Lurling, blue-green algae expert at Wageningen University & Research. "It also contributes to getting a better picture of the extent of harmful blue-green algal blooms in the Netherlands." Lurling says blue-green algae can be confused with duckweed cover, windblown pollen, blooms and with filamentous algae. The Wageningen team received additional training from experts in the United Kingdom, where the Bloomin' Algae app was developed by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and has been running successfully for some time. The Bloomin' Algae app is now also available in Dutch.
For more information on blue-green algae, see the website of Wageningen University & Research.