IWA Publishing

Cladophora in the Great Lakes: impacts on beach water quality and human health

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Cladophora in the Great Lakes grows rapidly during the warm summer months, detaches, and becomes free-floating mats as a result of environmental conditions, eventually becoming stranded on recreational beaches. Cladophora provides protection and nutrients, which allow enteric bacteria such as Escherichia coli, enterococci, Shigella, Campylobacter, and Salmonella to persist and potentially regrow in the presence of the algae. As a result of wind and wave action, these microorganisms can detach and be released to surrounding waters and can influence water quality. Enteric bacterial pathogens have been detected in Cladophora mats; E. coli and enterococci may populate to become part of the naturalized microbiota in Cladophora; the high densities of these bacteria may affect water quality, resulting in unnecessary beach closures. The continued use of traditional fecal indicators at beaches with Cladophora presence is inadequate at accurately predicting the presence of fecal contamination. This paper offers a substantial review of available literature to improve the knowledge of Cladophora impacts on water quality, recreational water monitoring, fecal indicator bacteria and microorganisms, and public health and policy.

Keywords: Cladophora, Great Lakes, indicator bacteria, public health, recreational water quality

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