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UNH Researchers Suspect Algae Blooms May Be Harming Loons

National Audubon Society

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire think blue-green algae blooms may be contributing to the declining population of loons in certain New Hampshire lakes.

While scientists have long warned humans to stay clear of algae or cyanobacteria blooms, researchers at UNH now suspect they may be harming New Hampshire’s loon population. While the state’s overall loon population has been steadily rebounding each year, some lakes are still seeing losses.

Jim Haney is professor of biology at UNH. His research has found elevated levels of neurotoxins associated with cyanobacteria in the feathers of loon chicks.

“Humans have simply added nutrients to the lakes to the point where now the background amount of cyanobacteria that used to be present when these organisms were evolving is now much higher.”

Haney says more research is needed to establish a definitive link between the blooms and the declining loon numbers in certain lakes. His team of researchers will be testing more than 35 lakes with nesting loon populations this summer.

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