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Native algae species to blame for 'rock snot' blooms in rivers worldwide

The recent blooms of the freshwater algae known as "rock snot" on river bottoms worldwide are caused by a native species responding to changing environmental conditions rather than by accidental introductions by fishermen or the emergence of a new genetic strain as widely believed, a Dartmouth College-led study suggests.

In fact, the algae have been native to much of the world for thousands of years, but conditions promoting visible growths were absent or rare. The study, which includes researchers from Dartmouth and Environment Canada, appears in the journal BioScience. A PDF of the study, photos and a video clip are available on request.

Didymosphenia geminata, also known in the scientific vernacular as "didymo," is especially worrisome in salmon and trout rivers because it affects the insects they eat. The study suggests multimillion-dollar eradication efforts with chemicals and fishing restrictions are misguided, and that resources should be redirected at understanding and mitigating the environmental factors that trigger the blooms.

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