We’ve all seen it, but do you know it its abundance varies year to year and from month to month? Algae are an important and naturally occurring component of a healthy wetland ecosystem and they play a critical role in the exchange and balance of nutrients between the water column and the rest of the wetland vegetation.

Algal abundance fluctuations are based on nutrient levels with the water column, the presence or absence of other developing wetland plants, and water temperature. During the winter, nutrient levels increase as a result of mineralization of the soil decay or organic matter, while at the same time, algae and plants that would use these nutrients are dormant. As water temperatures increase in the spring, excess nutrients produced over the winter are taken up by wetland plans and whatever remains available is then used by algae.