This beautiful yet unsettling scene took place in Huizhou City recently as countless little green plants began rapidly sprouting up in the river giving it the appearance of a lush green meadow.
This is actually an annual occurrence in the city and officials are at a crossroads of how to deal with it this plant which may luckily turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
These plants are a form of duckweed that float along the surface of the water and can reproduce rapidly under the right conditions. In the case of Huizhou these conditions occur in spring and summer when the water levels drop allowing the duckweed to have a party.
And what a party it is. These plants multiply so fast that it’s hard for removal crews to keep pace with them. Huizhou city has earmarked about two million yuan (US$320,000) annually to clear out the plants in fear of their effects on the ecology.
However, scientists in the area are beginning to see potential uses for what was once thought to be a dangerous nuisance.
Aside from looking kind of pretty, this blanket of duckweed is said to help clean up the river because they absorb excess nitrogen and phosphates. The cluttered blankets they make also help to trap larger pollutants, help to prevent mosquito breeding, curb excessive water loss from the river due to evaporation, and provide shelter for young fish to grow.
That’s not all! Duckweed has recently been looked at as an excellent source of biofuel because of its rapid growth, high content of starch, and ability to consume CO2 in nearly equal amounts to what it would put out as a fuel.
So, what was once considered a menace to the waterways of Huizhou may soon become a cash bonanza and ecological boon for the city. It’s enough to inspire me to leave a tub of water out on my balcony in hopes of getting some duckweed of my own.
So far all I’ve gotten are lots of mosquitoes and accusations that I’m the reason dengue fever has broken out in my apartment complex, though.