BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Plant life on the LSU lakes has turned a vibrant red color, but why does this happen, and is it safe? Many people believe it to be red algae, but Oceanography and Wetland Studies Professor Sibel Bargu Ates said it is a different type of plant life.
“These are not really algae, they are plants that can live at the surface of the water,” Bargu Ates said.
Bargu Ates explains that these plants are called “Red Mosquito Ferns” and the changing color is natural in its life cycle.
“In the beginning, they are usually green, and when they mature, they turn red,” Bargu Ates said.
Red Mosquito Ferns are the tiniest fern in the world, according to Loyola University. But if they grow to cover a large amount of the lake, that’s when the plant can be harmful to the other organisms.
“If they remain at the surface for a long period of time, they limit the light getting into the water so the organisms living in the water will be light-limited,” Bargu Ates said.
She also said when the plant dies and sinks to the bottom, oxygen will be used in the decomposition process. This is a problem because there are other creatures in the lake depending on that oxygen to thrive under the water.
Bargu Ates said the Red Mosquito Ferns are nothing to be worried about for now, but if you want to help protect our lakes, simple gestures like disposing of your trash in a garbage can instead of water can make a huge impact.