HAWAII- In a surprising turn of events, a pond in Hawaii has transformed into a vibrant pink spectacle, captivating social media attention. Contrary to initial concerns about toxic algae, experts from the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui have identified the source as halobacteria, a single-celled organism thriving in highly saline water.
Over the past two weeks, staff members at the refuge have closely monitored the striking pink transformation, attributing it to the elevated salinity levels in the pond’s outlet area—currently exceeding 70 parts per thousand, twice that of seawater. Combined with Maui’s severe drought conditions, this unusual environment has provided ideal conditions for the proliferation of halobacteria.
The University of Hawaii is conducting further tests to delve into the nature of these microorganisms. According to Dr. Shiladitya DasSarma, a microbiology and immunology professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the halobacteria are unlikely to pose a health threat to the public, as they cannot survive in the human body due to insufficient salt.
Despite this, authorities have cautioned against water activities, fish consumption from the pond, and pet exposure to its waters. The vivid pink hue serves as an alarming signal for the ecosystem, indicating salinity levels detrimental to the survival of fish and other animals.
Dr. DasSarma emphasizes that the current scenario in Hawaii underscores the increasing frequency of extreme weather events linked to climate change. While instances of water bodies changing color due to high salinity are not uncommon globally, the occurrence in Hawaii, typically a more humid region, raises concerns about the broader impacts of climate change on diverse environments.
Similar instances of color changes have been observed in the United States, such as the pink section of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, which developed higher salinity in the 1950s. Worldwide, pink or red lakes can be found in regions with elevated salinity, including Spain, Senegal, the Crimean Peninsula, Azerbaijan, and beyond.
As experts continue their investigations, the situation serves as a vivid reminder of the intricate relationship between climate change and the unexpected transformations in our natural surroundings.