What is Golden Algae?
Golden algae is a tiny, single-celled organism with yellow-green or golden-brown pigments. It is found worldwide and is tolerant of a wide range of salinities and temperatures, making it suited to environments ranging from brackish coastal waters to inland rivers and streams.
Best known for blooms causing massive fish kills, but toxins from algae can also kill larval amphibians and bivalves. Species that can be impacted are catfish, carp, gar, and bass. When blooms occur the water usually appears golden. There is no evidence blooms are harmful to humans, other wildlife, or livestock. However, people should not pick up dead or dying fish for consumption.
Golden Algae in North America
The first documented case of golden alga in North America occurred in Texas in 1985. Biologists do not know if the alga is native and previously unidentified before 1985 or if it is an exotic species accidentally introduced to North America.
Golden alga first appeared in Oklahoma waters in January 2004 and resulted in a minor fish kill in an isolated lake upstream of Lake Texoma. Since then, golden alga has bloomed in three other Oklahoma waterways.
To learn more about golden alga, visit the TX GA website: Texas Parks & Wildlife Golden Alga website.
When to expect blooms?
The dynamics of bloom formation still aren't well understood. Golden alga can live in a water body for long periods of time without causing a fish kill. Scientists suspect that a variety of factors such as temperature, water chemistry, and rate of stream flow combine to give golden alga an advantage over other plankton species and lead to a population explosion.
Golden algae is only harmful when it blooms. A bloom occurs when golden algae reproduce rapidly and becomes more abundant than other algal species in the water. Blooms are more likely to occur in cold weather, and sometimes taper off as the water warms and other species of algae become more abundant and active.
Where has it been documented in Oklahoma?
- Altus City Lake
- Lake Texoma
- Lake Altus-Luger
- Cimarron River
- Red River
- Salt Fork of Arkansas River