Cladophora is a type of stringy (filamentous) algae that grows on rocks, wood, logs, and other hard underwater surfaces in freshwater ecosystems, including the Great Lakes basin. If you spot this type of stringy algae along New York’s Great Lakes beaches and shorelines, including Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River or the St. Lawrence River, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wants to know.
New York’s Great Lakes Action Agenda Goal #2 recognizes that water quality in some nearshore areas of Lakes Erie and Ontario remain a concern, in part due to seasonal widespread occurrences of nuisance algae such as Cladophora.
While Cladophora serves beneficial ecological purposes in natural amounts, excessive growth can occur under certain conditions. When a large amount of Cladophora detaches from the lake bottom, it can wash up along the shoreline and begin to decompose, potentially leading to undesirable odors, an environment suitable for the growth of bacteria, and an unfavorable recreational experience.
Cladophora growth and distribution in the nearshore waters of the Great Lakes are being assessed by U.S. and Canadian agencies and researchers under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. This includes the role that nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) and invasive Dreissenid (zebra and quagga) mussels play in promoting the growth of Cladophora.
Share your observations using this online survey.
The information collected will assist with efforts in the U.S. and Canada under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement that aim to provide a better understanding of where, when, and the extent to which Cladophora is accumulating along the Great Lakes shorelines.
You can find additional information about Cladophora on DEC’s Cladophora webpage. For questions and to find out more about sharing your observations, contact GLCladophora@dec.ny.gov.
Photos, from above: Moderate accumulation of Cladophora algae over a substantial portion of the shoreline; and a light accumulation of Cladophora algae. More pictures are available here.