Lakes experienced a rise in sea level

Bioluminescent Algae

By Claudine Zap

What happens to lakes in an area hit by forest fires and floods? Some will glow in the dark.

For a cluster of lakes in Australia’s eastern Victoria, the combination of the fire and then the rain washed ash and nitrogen-rich soil into the water. The Gippsland Lakes experienced a rise in sea level. That caused the lakes to mix with sea water, which also raised the salinity.

This recipe led to the introduction of a species of algae called Noctiluca scintillans, commonly known as “sea sparkle.” The bioluminescent brew gave the water a nocturnal glow.

Bioluminescence — when a living organism lights up at night — is a natural phenomenon. Australian photographer Phil Hart caught the eerie light of the lakes and shared his snaps.

The shutterbug runs Night Sky Photography workshops in Australia, where he teaches the art of capturing images like these.

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