Plankton researcher Louis Peperzak tries to understand how and why plankton grow where they grow and in line with that: why they sometimes cause a nuisance.
'The abundance of plankton, microscopic algae, is controlled by physical and biological factors. Physical factors are nutrients (nitrogen), salinity, turbulence and temperature. The long-term seawater temperature is increasing and this may lead to a change on plankton composition. Biological factors are related to the algae themselves and to organisms that consume plankton, such as zooplankton and mussels. Algae that were introduced from warmer Asia will grow better in a steadily less cooler North Sea. If they are less consumed by our native zooplankton, they may outgrow indigenous species.'
‘There are various species of algae that produce colorfull pigments or even toxic substances. When these algae bloom, that can give rise to problems. The sea may change from blue to orange or red. Sometimes people get sick after eating mussels that have fed on toxic algae. The mussels might experience no ill effects, but people who consume those mussels will.’
‘By studying the biology and physics of algae, I examine why the plankton composition changes from season to season and from year to year. This is becoming more relevant in the future, because my model research revealed a long time ago that problems caused by nuisamce algae will probably only increase due to climate change.’