Humboldt Journal of Microbiology


In recent years the effects of climate change have taken a devastating toll on ecosystems around the world. With high temperatures and extreme droughts, wildfires have become increasingly common. In order to combat these natural disasters wildland firefighters, drop millions of gallons of fire retardant on public lands and forests. These fire retardants consist of between 80%-100% ammonium phosphate which are incredibly effective as fire suppressants yet is more commonly known for its use in fertilizer. Ammonium phosphate fertilizers can lead to stream eutrophication and undesirable environmental impacts. Our research aims to address the effects of fire retardant on growth in cyanobacteria, specifically Anabaena — a filamentous, nitrogen fixing genera common to North America and responsible for many of the large, toxic cyanobacteria blooms found during summer months. We hypothesized that fire retardant, which is made up of mostly ammonium phosphate, will act similarly to ammonium phosphate fertilizer and cause an increase in growth in Anabaena cultures grown in a lab environment. After a 11-day growth curve experiment, results showed no differences in growth between microcosms treated with ammonium phosphate or fire retardant, supporting the hypothesis that fire retardants can have similar effects to ammonium phosphate-based fertilizers when released in the environment.

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