The didymo threat

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The presence of a new plague threatening Patagonia’s rivers was confirmed three years ago. Its name is “didymo,” and it stems from the abbreviation of its scientific name: Didymosphenia geminate, a unicellular algae that forms colonies so large they blanket entire river and lake beds.
 
It was first detected some two centuries ago in northern Europe, Scotland and Iceland.  This microalgae, similar in appearance to paper or wet cardboard, is odorless and harmless to the majority of the species living in aquatic environments. But two centuries were enough for the true noxious effects of its propagation to become evident.  It is so prolific that its colonies simply overwhelm their surroundings. In recent years, it was detected in New Zealand (2004) and Argentina (2009) and its presence in Chile was officially recognized in May 2010.
 
Its main impact is the invasion and displacement of species due to a biomass overload.  It can cover an entire river-bed in little time, forcing other species to relocate, further disrupting the environment. In addition to spreading through rivers, its mobility makes it an even more complex threat. Although it can only thrive in low-temperature environments, its ability to survive even inside a simple water drop means this microalgae can easily travel in objects which have come in contact with it. Therefore, taking action to prevent its spread through gear used in aquatic activities is of utmost importance.
 
Currently, there are no known techniques for effectively eradicating this invasive microorganism. However, we do know how to avoid its propagation, which occurs by direct contact with fishing gear, boats, kayaks and other equipment typically used in aquatic activities and sports.
 
In Chile, Sernapesca, the country’s National Fisheries Service, has launched an information campaign aimed at reaching all the population segments tied to environments in which didymo might spread to clean waters. Part of this campaign is based on large, eye-catching billboards, as well as more concrete steps. Decontamination centers have been set-up in several strategic places along the shores of key groundwater bodies, which not only inform and educate, but also offer the opportunity to disinfect gear that might have come in contact with the algae.
 
What’s most important is that everyone take appropriate measures to keep this plague from becoming an ecological catastrophe. 
 
How to prevent didymo
REMOVE any vegetation, mud, algae, sediment and water residues left on any material, clothing, gear, boats and/or vehicles before leaving lakes and rivers.
WASH and decontaminate anything that came in contact with water for at least one minute with disinfectant. 
DRY for at least 48 hours if you can’t disinfect your material, clothing, gear, boats and/or vehicles before going into a lake or river. 
 

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