Flamingo Deaths In Lake Tuz

There have been many flamingo deaths in the second biggest lake in Turkey, Lake Tuz, also known as “Flamingo Heaven”.

Many flamingos incubate in Lake Tuz and it is on their migration path. It is predicted that around 5 thousand baby flamingos have died this year in Lake Tuz.

According to BBC, photographer and nature lover Fahri Tunç has stated “the lake has dried due to brutal water usage and the babies are dying because of dehydration” 

Lake Tuz has no water exit, meaning it’s a closed lake. It is on the migration path of many bird species including flamingos, which makes it a home for many bird species during spring and summer.

The data that BBC has collected from the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation in 2019, 20381 flamingo babies were born.

The following information shows that Lake Tuz, one of the most important bodies of water for flamingo incubation, is also a Category 1 Natural Protected Area, Important Plant Area, Important Nature Area and Important Bird Area.In T24’s July 17 news story similar flamingo and bird deaths have been sighted in İzmir’s Gediz Delta. Prof. Dr. Atilla Arslan from Konya Selçuk University Science Faculty Biology Department, has stated that the deaths in Lake Tuz are from nutrition shortage caused by water insufficiency.

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The ‘Sea Snot’ Outbreak

Over the last six months, the ‘sea snot’ has covered the coasts of the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul, Turkey, which has alarmed residents and is a threat to marine life. 

Mucilage, or “sea snot,” covers the shoreline in Istanbul, Turkey, June 6, 2021. (AFP PHOTO)

What is ‘sea snot’?

‘Sea snot’ is scientifically known as marine mucilage and is a collection of mucus-like mass of organic matter and much of it is composed of phytoplankton. The microscopic algae normally help ocean waters with oxygen, however can also exponentially grow and form a thick slimy substance. 

This naturally occurring mucilage was first witnessed in Turkey in 2007 as it was seen in parts of the Aegean Sea near Greece, however never to this extent. Similar organic threats are present around the world, affecting marine life and aquatic industries. The issue has reached an unprecedented level as the researchers from the Institute of Marine Sciences at Turkey’s Middle East Technical University (METU) have found that the mucilage is not just on the surface, but also 80 to 100 meters below water level, reaching the seabed.

Why did the mucilage occur?

The mucilage has formed as a result of increasing pollution from organic compounds like nitrogen and phosphorus. Increasing amounts of wastewater and pesticides as well as agricultural or industrial runoff has been polluting the sea. 

Global warming has also played a role and has led to the killing of shellfish in the Sea of Marmara. It is known that water temperatures in Marmara have risen by 2 to 2.5 degrees in the past 20 years, which is above the global average. 

More than 20 million people live around the sea, therefore the tons of sewage produced and overfishing have weakened the ecosystem by causing a loss in biodiversity. This has made the sea more susceptible to the formation of marine mucilage.

Where else has this happened?

Marine mucilage is not something new, in fact it has occurred in other places around the world. It was first spotted during the early 18th Century in the Mediterranean, while also becoming an issue in the Aegean and Black Sea.  

65 kilometers off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, a similar substance had formed in 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. It was speculated that some of the oil had mixed with other organic matter, which covered the sea bed and killed countless sea creatures. 

Blue-green cyanobacteria cause harmful algal blooms in freshwater lakes and rivers as well as microalgae that form toxic red tides. This has even occurred under the ice in the Alps and the Antarctic.

A diver swims amid mucilage in the Sea of Marmara on June 15, 2021.
Sebnem Coskun / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Why is it a threat?

The Marmara Sea is an important ecosystem between its neighbouring Aegean and Black Sea. The sea is diverse in terms of marine life  including mussels, clams, coral and 230 different species of fish.

The ‘sea snot’ takes in the oxygen as it covers the surface of the water and sinks to the seabed, which forms dead zones within the sea, thereby threatening the ecosystem and marine life. It can also attract other microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria, which can severely harm sea creatures living in the water. 

The importance of Marine Conservation

Marine conservation is the protection of ecosystems in oceans and seas. It aims to limit human-caused damage to marine ecosystems and restore the damaged marine ecosystems.

Conserved areas help protect important habitats and marine life, while restoring the productivity of oceans through avoiding further degradation.

70% of Earth is covered with water and the ocean produces half of the world’s oxygen, however as the ecosystems have changed and environmental issues have aroused, the state of the waterways has become one of the greatest problems we face. The oceans and seas have been affected by climate change, pollution, overfishing, acidification etc. These have led to many issues that are visible such as the mucilage and some that are invisible yet pose a great threat. 

How to protect the sea

  • Eating sustainable seafood
  • Reducing energy use
  • Using reusable plastic products and ocean-friendly materials
  • Properly disposing of hazardous materials and waste
  • Conserving water
  • Reducing pollutants by choosing nontoxic alternatives

Inter-institutional cooperation and legislation revisions are parts of an action plan to prevent environmental issues within the sea. 

Sources:

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2021/06/photos-turkeys-sea-snot-disaster/619254/

https://www.dw.com/en/turkey-sea-snot-baris-salihoglu-aegean-marmara-sea-climate-change

https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/sea-snot-spreads-to-black-sea-amid-fight-in-turkeys

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