Cyanobacteria are more commonly known as blue-green algae. Usually when we hear blue-green algae being mentioned, it isn’t in a positive way.
Due to nutrient rich runoffs from agriculture and households winding up in waterways, in some places blue-green algae will grow into a massive bloom, blocking out sunlight and causing oxygen imbalances in a body of water. As a result, other species may be forced to move on or die. Some blue-green algae also produces toxins that can kill animals and humans if ingested.
While some forms of algae are now being researched for their biofuel potential, there is a land form of cyanobacteria that is also stirring up a great deal of interest.
According to Australian researchers, land based cyanobacteria utilize carbon dioxide and converts it into carbon biomass while replacing oxygen back into the atmosphere. The cyanobacteria thrive in harsh environments – from sub-zero temperatures right though to 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) – and beyond.
Rangeland ecologist Wendy Williams of the University of Queensland says that ancient cyanobacteria were so good at filtering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they turned the Earth’s CO2 rich atmosphere into the more oxygenated conditions we have today.
These cyanobacteria basically make soil, so it’s not just their carbon sequestration potential being researched – they may be able to be introduced to degraded lands and help make them fertile again.
I’ve seen patches of what I presume to be these bacteria on my land and never really gave them much thought. I certainly didn’t see them as being soil in the making. Nature continues to astound me daily – so many processes I overlook thinking they are nothing important when quite the opposite is occurring.
Using blue green algae as a carbon sequestration tool is really a fascinating concept – you can read more about it here