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Lake snow research points strongly to genetic origins

Media Release - 13 September 2017

Research commissioned by the Otago Regional Council has found that the genetic source of Lindavia intermedia (the algae responsible for creating lake snow) is highly likely to be from outside NZ.

Genetic testing of lake snow samples by the report author, Landcare Research, found that specimens those from Lake Youngs in Washington State (USA) and all NZ lakes were identical in more than one respect.

The findings will give impetus to multi-agency efforts (ORC, Environment Canterbury, Environment Southland, and the Ministry for Primary Industries) to identify appropriate ways to manage lake snow in the southern alpine lakes and elsewhere in NZ.

This collaboration began in 2016 with these agencies taking part in an experts’ workshop in Wanaka – it was from there that the research was commissioned.

ORC technical committee chairman Andrew Noone said a more intensive research programme could now get under way to understand the diatom and work towards potential solutions to minimising the effects of lake snow, which is a nuisance because of its ability to foul boat motors and clog water filters. 

“We know that lake snow has been causing ongoing concerns across New Zealand, and particularly that there are frustrations about this in our own backyard in affected areas in the Otago region.” 

“Whilst lake snow is clearly a nuisance to lake users, I want to be very clear that water quality in our lakes is excellent and this species is not harmful to human health,” Cr Noone said.

The research report was tabled at ORC’s technical committee meeting today, where councillors stressed that identifying ways to manage lake snow in the southern alpine lakes will require a continuing collaborative effort, due to it being evident in other lakes around New Zealand and the world.

‘We have been liaising with our key stakeholders on this report and the issue more generally since 2016.  Our council feels strongly that this is an issue that needs to be tackled nationally with our key partners - our CEO Mr Bodeker has been liaising with MPI on the report findings,” Cr Noone said.

“We have also scheduled a community meeting in directly affected communities, where residents will have the opportunity to ask questions and receive a presentation about the research report,” he said. 

This public information session will take place on Wednesday 4 October at 7pm at the Lake Wanaka Centre auditorium.

The research report is the first in a series of studies designed to gain a greater understanding of Lindavia intermedia and the formation of lake snow.

The work stream will focus on: 

  • the origins of the species 
  • researching the drivers of the dominance of lake snow in lakes
  • the development of technologies for effective sampling and monitoring of lake snow
  • the development of methods to stop the spread of lake snow between lakes.

The ultimate aim of this research is to determine whether it is possible to manage lake snow.  

Cr Noone said councillors were pleased to see research into this species progressing and looked forward to sharing the results with stakeholders and the community as the various work streams were completed.

For further information contact

Cr Andrew Noone
Ph 0274 301727

Peter Bodeker
Chief Executive
ORC
Ph 0274 998328

Gavin Palmer
Director Engineering, Hazards, and Science
ORC
Ph 0274 933960

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