An algal bloom or marine bloom or water bloom is a rapid increase in the population of algae in an aquatic system.
Algal blooms may occur in freshwater as well as marine environments.
Typically only one or a few phytoplankton species are involved and some blooms may be recognized by discoloration of the water resulting from the high density of pigmented cells.
Although there is no officially recognized threshold level, algae can be considered to be blooming at concentrations of hundreds to thousands of cells per milliliter, depending on the causative species.
Algal bloom concentrations may reach millions of cells per milliliter.
Colors observed are green, yellowish-brown, or red.
Bright green blooms may also occur.
These are a result of blue-green algae, which are actually bacteria (cyanobacteria).
Some algal blooms are the result of an excess of nutrients (particularly phosphorus and nitrogen) into waters and higher concentrations of these nutrients in water cause increased growth of algae and green plants.
As more algae and plants grow, others die.
This dead organic matter becomes food for bacteria that decompose it.
With more food available, the bacteria increase in number and use up the dissolved oxygen in the water.
When the dissolved oxygen content decreases, many fish and aquatic insects cannot survive.
This results in a dead area.
Algal blooms may also be of concern as some species of algae produce neurotoxins.
At the high cell concentrations reached during some blooms, these toxins may have severe biological impacts on wildlife.
Algal blooms composed of phytoplankters known to naturally produce biotoxins are often called Harmful Algal Blooms, or HABs.