Rock Snot: Coming to a Clear, Cold Stream Near You?

In places like Colorado and parts of Canada this benign diatom has changed for the worst. Why, it is not yet known–environmental changes in the water (warmer, pH changes, more or different agricultural runoff?) or a spreading genetic mutation that is changing the behavior and growth patterns for this phytoplanktonic creature. But it bodes ill for riverine aquatic insect habitat, and from that, for trout and other fish and the aquatic food web in general.

Take a good look at Rock Snot. One at a time, Didymo is rather lovely in its little silicon pill-box container. If you discover it spreading unchecked, spreading its toilet-paper stringyness in other Southwest Virginia or Southern Appalachian clear, cold waters, follow the precautions against spread, and be sure your local Environmental Quality people know about it. Fishermen, especially, follow the guidelines in the Virginia poster to avoid bringing Didymo into the Little River system in Floyd County. Un-disenfected felt-bottom hip waders seem a major agent of spread.

Didymo (Invasive Freshwater Algae) in Virginia

Didymo in Wikipedia (see US states where it has recently spread)

Disgusting algae’s spread perplexes scientists in California

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’ve actually read about that stuff. Yes, here, in the water-free state. I read that they’re considering banning felt waders completely in some states because of the spread of that goo.

  2. I read the link you provided to the California infestation. I am really sad about this. No other invasive I can think of has such a negative effect on the humans who want to enjoy a natural place, although I am sure many invasives are more damaging in the ecosystem they have invaded.