Salt Lake in Turkey Turns Red Because of Algae Bloom

During drier months, visitors can actually walk on the salt lake.

July 21, 2015, 12:31 PM
PHOTO: A view from the "Salt Lake," July 16, 2015, in Aksaray, Turkey.
A view from the "Salt Lake," July 16, 2015, in Aksaray, Turkey.
Murat Oner Tas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

— -- A popular salt lake in Turkey recently turned a deep red color thanks to an enormous bloom of Dunaliella salinas algae.

Saline lake Tuz Gola, the second-largest lake in Turkey, is slowly evaporating amid the summer heat, according to Stony Brook University marine ecology research professor Dr. Christopher Gobler.

"Because the lake is losing water, the salinity is getting higher and higher, which kills off a lot of the plankton that normally eat this red algae," Gobler told ABC News today. "So now, the algae is thriving and will probably red until the lake fully evaporates, probably next month during the peak of summer heat."

During dry months, the lake often attracts tourists who can literally walk on the salt flats until water starts coming back during winter months, Gobler said.

PHOTO: A view from the "Salt Lake," July 16, 2015, in Aksaray, Turkey.
A view from the "Salt Lake," July 16, 2015, in Aksaray, Turkey.
Murat Oner Tas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

But for now, tourists can wade in the water that filled with harmless algae, according to Gobler.

"I wouldn't recommend drinking the lake's water, but some people actually grow Dunaliella salinas algae for its antioxidant properties," Gobler said.

PHOTO: A view from the "Salt Lake," July 16, 2015, in Aksaray, Turkey.
A view from the "Salt Lake," July 16, 2015, in Aksaray, Turkey.
Murat Oner Tas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

He added that pink flamingos currently at the lake can thank the "incredibly colored" algae for their vibrant color.

PHOTO: Flamingos are seen at the "Salt Lake," July 16, 2015, in Aksaray, Turkey.
Flamingos are seen at the "Salt Lake," July 16, 2015, in Aksaray, Turkey.
Murat Oner Tas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

"The lake is home to pink flamingos, and the reason they're pink is because they get their coloration through the food web, which starts with the algae," he said. "This algae gets eaten by plankton, which gets eaten by fish and other organism that then get eaten by flamingos."

Tuz Gola was declared a Special Environmental Protection Area by the United Nations in 2013 because it is home to endangered flamingos in Europe and because of its unique biodiversity.

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