Pond in Hawaii Turned Pink, Raising a Red Flag for the Environment

A pond in Hawaii became a social media spectacle this week after turning bubble-gum pink. However, experts said the new hue was not just a photo opportunity but an indicator of environmental stress.

Staff members at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui have been monitoring the pink water for the last two weeks, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, after initial fears that the color was a result of toxic algae.

Instead, tests have indicated the source of the pink hue was likely halobacteria, a type of archaea, or single-celled organism that thrive in bodies of water with high levels of salt, the service said.

The salinity inside the Kealia Pond outlet area is currently greater than 70 parts per thousand, which is twice the salinity of seawater.

Paired with the dry conditions resulting from Maui’s drought, which is rated as “severe” in the majority of the county, the pond’s salinity created the perfect conditions for the halobacteria to thrive.

The University of Hawaii is conducting further tests to learn more about the archaea.

If the microorganism is a halobacteria, the water is not likely to pose a public health threat, said Dr. Shiladitya DasSarma, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The microorganisms would not be able to survive in the human body because the body doesn’t have enough salt for the halobacteria to survive, Dr. DasSarma said.

Still, officials have advised visitors to stay out of the water, to avoid consuming any fish from the pond and to ensure that pets don’t drink from it either.

The bright pink hue is still a cause for concern in the surrounding ecosystem.

The color indicates the water salinity levels are too high for most fish to survive or other animals to drink, he said.

“This has been seen more commonly around the world, but one doesn’t think of Hawaii — it’s not an arid part of the world,” he said.

Sahred From Source link Science

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