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Red/Orange Coloration of Kachemak Bay Waters

August 16, 2012

There is an answer on the red/orange waters in the bay!

* The red/orange coloration on the waters is from spores off the Spruce-Labrador Tea Needle Rust fungus.

Red/Orange water of Kachemak Bay. Photo by T. Hoem Neher

* According to the Cooperative Extension Office in Soldotna, this parasitic fungus thrives in high moisture at temperatures below 60 degrees F. With the cold summer we have had, no wonder!* You can see the fungus on spruce trees at a distance as a yellowish color on the outer branches. Closer in you can see a crusty substance on the needles and small branches. This coloration becomes more apparent when the weather warms and the “blisters” of spores burst open, releasing the spores to be carried by the wind.

* The Extension Office has received many calls up further north on the Kenai Peninsula with the spores on fresh water lakes and from folks concerned about the spruce trees.

* This is the same fungus that was the cause of the “Orange Goo” in the village of Kivalina last year, which was in the news.

* Last year this week, a photo from a sample in Eldred passage, same thing.

* The fungus is a natural and harmless plant parasite. The trees do not die from the fungus.

* Here are two excellent short articles on the Spruce Needle Rust, it has an interesting life history!:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/2012/02/29/mystery-of-alaskan-goo-rust-solved-at-last

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r10/forest-grasslandhealth/?cid=fsbdev2_038417

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