Blue hue confirmed as harmless E.hux algae

The extent of the E.hux bloom was captured in satellite imagery from the NERC Earth Observation Data Acquisition and Analysis Service (NEODAAS). Photograph: NEODAAS.

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A residential field centre on Cumbrae has confirmed that the algal bloom which turned the sea surrounding Kintyre’s east and south coasts into a brilliant turquoise colour, was, in fact, the harmless Emiliania huxleyi (E.hux) variety.

The algal bloom which affected the entire Firth of Clyde, and which has now dissipated, was suspected to be an E.hux or karenia variety but this was not confirmed until FSC Millport sent a sample to Aberdeen University.

Using an electron microscope, Marine Scotland researchers confirmed the microscopic sea algae as E.hux; a spherical-shaped species of coccolithophore which reflects sunlight just below the water’s surface.

Dr Peter Miller, an earth observation scientist and an expert on algal blooms, said in a social media post: ‘I can confirm that it was coccolithophore E.hux that turned Clyde turquoise; hardly any other phytoplankton there. Non-toxic, 10μm across.’

As predicted by Dr Miller, and as reported in the Courier last month, the bloom was harmless and did little more than change the colour of the sea.

Algal blooms are unusual on the west coast of Scotland; this one, scientists suspect, was brought in by water from the North Atlantic.

In addition to providing stunning vistas, coccolithophore blooms also play an important environmental role in helping to reduce the build up of greenhouse gases by absorbing carbon dioxide from the water.

Marine Scotland researchers used an electron microscope to photograph the coccolithophore. Photograph: Marine Scotland Science.