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Over the past weeks Chennai’s beaches have gained blue and glowing waves leaving the citizens overjoyed. However, these blue waves are a result of the presence of algae called bioluminescent phytoplankton giving the waves its blue colour.
While the citizens are overjoyed to see their beaches with blue waves, it is a negative sign for the marine life and also indicates climate change. Phytoplankton or more commonly known as dinoflagellates, produce light through chemical reactions in proteins. As the waves hit the shore, the phytoplankton converts their chemical energy into electrical energy causing it to emit a blue glow on the face of the waves.
The beaches that witnessed the blue waves include Thiruvanmiyur, Besant Nagar’s Edward Elliot’s, Palavakkam and Injambakkam beach. The scientific name of the bioluminescent phytoplankton species is Noctiluca Scintillans.
“In the 2000s, it was quite common. They would be all over our shoes and pants during our night patrols at the beach. I once saw a crab that had eaten the algae, and it was glowing from inside,” says V Arun, coordinator for the Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), an informal organisation that patrols an 8-km stretch of the beach at night to safely relocate nests of Olive Ridley turtles. “Since then, it seemed to have died down. However, this turtle nesting season (January - March) we saw a return of the algae,” he adds, reports the Weather Channel.
The return of the phytoplankton is a cause of worry for scientists as it may lead to depletion of marine life.
‘Experts and researchers think it could be a sign of unhealthy waters, and an impact of climate change. In some seas, the dominance of these algae can be a death knell for other species, and the areas they dominate are nicknamed the ‘death zone’,’ said the Weather Channel.
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