Notable decomposition products of senescing Lake Michigan Cladophora glomerata

Julie R. Peller, Muruleedhara N. Byappanahalli, Dawn Shively, Michael J. Sadowsky, Chan Lan Chun, Richard L. Whitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Massive accumulations of Cladophora, a ubiquitous, filamentous green alga, have been increasingly reported along Great Lakes shorelines, negatively affecting beach aesthetics, recreational activities, public health and beachfront property values. Previously, the decomposition byproducts of decaying algae have not been thoroughly examined. To better understand the negative consequences and potential merit of the stranded Cladophora, a three month mesocosm study of the dynamic chemical environment of the alga was conducted using fresh samples collected from southern Lake Michigan beaches. Typical fermentation products, such as organic acids, sulfide compounds, and alcohols were detected in the oxygen-deprived algae. Short chain carboxylic acids peaked on day seven, in correspondence with the lowest pH value. Most low molecular mass carbon compounds were eventually consumed, but 4-methylphenol, indole, and 3-methylindole were detected throughout the incubation period. Natural oils were detected in fresh and decomposing algae, indicating the stable nature of these compounds. The mesocosm experiment was validated by directly sampling the fluid within decomposing Cladophora mats in the field; many of the same compounds were found. This study suggests that the problematic Cladophora accumulations may be harvested for useful byproducts, thereby reducing the odiferous and potentially harmful mats stranded along the shorelines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)800-806
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPAR5-GL2010-1 ). This article is contribution number 1845 of the USGS Great Lake Science Center. We thank Jean Adams (USGS) for help with the statistical data analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V.


  • Algal mats
  • Algal oils
  • Cladophora
  • Decomposition
  • Persistent organics


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