OMG!! What has happened to my creek? It’s chock full of some sort of horrible, green slime monster!
That’s the filamentous algae we call Cladophora (above right), a nuisance species that often blooms very intensely in Austin area streams in the spring and sometimes fall. It is a branched, attached alga that has a rough, “wooly” feel to it, not slimy at all.
Cladophora loves fast flowing water, lots of nutrients and lots of light, so when these three things come together, it can be overwhelming.
Despite the unflattering images of “creek scum”, algae play a vital role in our creeks by providing oxygen, food, and habitat for aquatic organisms. However, when algae grow in excess, they consume oxygen in the water during the process of decomposition which can cause fish kills.
So remember, it’s just a symptom, not the source of the problem, which is usually high nutrients washing into the stream from stormwater! Nutrients may come from natural sources like breaking down of leaves but also human sources like fertilizer runoff and wastewater leaks. Visit www.growgreen.org to learn how you can keep the green in your yard, not in our creeks.