Mike the Mad Biologist

The Boston Globe reports that the Charles River swim race might be canceled because of cyanobacterial blooms. Again. So why is this happening? Phosphorous levels are too high:

Blue-green algae are not true algae, but cyanobacteria. They are usually present in amounts so small they are harmless, but can undergo exponential growth spurts when exposed to nutrients contained in contaminants such as lawn fertilizer and Canada goose droppings that wash into waterways.

State and federal environmental officials suspect that this year’s bloom is occurring now because of optimal conditions for growth: lots of sunshine, warm water, and low water levels that concentrate nutrients. Scientists are uncertain exactly why water levels are low, but say it appears related to rainfall totals upstream and the amount of water communities are using.

I blame the geese*. Seriously. These algal blooms have been spotted in previous years up by Science Park, but now the blooms have moved down river to the Esplanade. Over the last couple of years, something else has moved downriver: geese. Two years ago, if you went out to the Esplanade on a summer day, the grass was packed with people.

Then the geese came. Actually, they were driven down river by a goose-control program at…Science Park. Funny, how animals capable of flight might move somewhere else. Now, almost nobody sits out at the Esplanade, with good reason: there’s probably five to ten goose turds per square meter–that’s fresh turds. It really is that disgusting (you definitely need a towel and a chair). The city of Boston is spending thousands and thousands of dollars to make an all-you-can-eat goose buffet and gooseshitatorium.

Get rid of the geese.

Before you feel sorry for the geese, remember they’re not an endangered species. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just pigeons that produce even more shit (1.5 lbs/adult according to the Boston Park service). Dumping 75 lbs of shit per day along a 200 yard stretch of river, a shallow stretch of river that moves very slowly in certain places, is bound to lead to algal blooms that serve as source populations (e.g., the non-river boat cut is already really turbid).

Mayor Menino, before you build your 1000 foot skyscraper, how about cleaning up the Esplanade?

*There isn’t a whole lot we can do about rainfall.

Comments

  1. #1 Joshua
    July 19, 2007

    It’s funny, because this geese control program roughly coincided with the time I moved out of the BU dorms and into Brighton, so I completely failed to notice any of this going on. But for a couple of years, I was a regular at the Esplanade. It was really quite nice. It’s a shame if the geese are really making that much of a mess out of it.

  2. #2 Sven DiMilo
    July 19, 2007

    Man, I hate Canada geese.

  3. #3 QrazyQat
    July 19, 2007

    Man, I hate Canada geese.

    The only thing worse is an Illinois Nazi.

  4. #4 scienceteacherinexile
    July 20, 2007

    I am not familiar with the area, so someone help me:
    Are there fish in this river, and if so what type, and if so, have the blooms affected them?
    In two of my university courses we studied a flood control dam that had been contaminated by a nearby dairy. During the first semester, there was a huge fish kill because of an algal bloom.
    IMHO, geese are beautiful, disgusting, delicious creatures.

  5. #5 adamg
    July 20, 2007

    I linked to your discussion and got a reply from somebody who says the geese aren’t the problem – blame decreased turbidity (so cleaning the river makes it worse) and increased runoff.

  6. #6 Media Watch
    July 20, 2007

    BTW — The City of Boston doesn’t oversee the Esplanade, it is part of the State’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), once known as the MDC. Anyone who has lived here more than 5 minutes knows that!

    So the name is Patrick, Deval Patrick, if you’d like to see a cleaner Esplanade. (He’s the Governor, by the way).

    M.

  7. #7 Tom Starling
    July 27, 2007

    I can’t support the lethal method, here. For one, it’s inhumane, but I don’t know how concerned you are with that. Practically, it just doesn’t work. The underlying problem in any goose infestation is that the area is attractive to geese. Killing off the current population in all likelihood will be the most temporary fix. A new population will quickly take its place.

    They could protect the park with some products that make it unattractive to geese, like sound repellers or taste aversions on the grass. It doesn’t take that long to convince geese that a park isn’t such a hot place to be anymore.

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