The Algal Invasion: Florida’s Growing Problem
A huge patch of algae 5,000 miles (8,047 kilometers) wide has been found to bring stench, pests and bacteria to the beaches of Florida and Mexico.
The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt is a vast collection of brown algae that stretches from the coast of West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico. At around 20 million tons, it is the world’s largest seaweed growth that can be seen from space.
This year’s bloom is the largest ever in March and is expected to grow from here, peaking in June or July. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the effects of algae.
Satellites show huge size of record algal bloom approaching Florida https://t.co/GBfTNupt0n
— ScienceAlert (@ScienceAlert) March 17, 2023
It is important to note that seaweed is generally fairly harmless and actually has benefits such as providing habitat for fish and absorbing carbon dioxide. But this is when he is in the open ocean.
The flower-like sargassums that currently span about twice the width of the United States could wreak havoc on beaches as ocean currents push kelp onto land. Because as soon as the algae reach the shore, “(bloom) the quality of the water deteriorates, it smells bad, attracts insects and bacteria, and repels tourists. It’s bad for the economy,” said Chuanmin Hu, a professor of oceanography at the University of Miami who leads a team tracking and tracking sargassum flowers using satellites.
Algae can also destroy coastal ecosystems, suffocate coral reefs, harm wildlife, threaten infrastructure and reduce air quality.
As the sargassum dies and rots on the beach, it has a distinct rotten egg smell, which is a major tourism problem in both Mexico and Florida. Hotels and resorts in Mexico, for example, spend millions of dollars each year to get rid of sargassum, hiring workers to pick it up and transport it to other locations.
There are hundreds of different types of Sargassum. Some of those that live in the Atlantic Ocean grow on the surface of the water, because they do not form roots to stick to rocks like other algae.
This makes it easier for smaller clusters to move and larger clusters to form as winds between South Africa and the Gulf of Mexico push them together, Hu said. This is what makes the Great Seaweed Belt across the Atlantic every spring and summer.
However, the consequences of the Sargasso Belt have worried scientists over the past decade. Experts say this year’s boom is particularly worrisome, according to Denise Chow for NBC News on Saturday.
“It’s unbelievable,” Brian Lupoint, research professor at the Florida Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, told NBC News.
LaPointe, who has studied Sargassum for four decades, told the news outlet that Key West beaches are already covered in seaweed, although moles usually wash ashore in May. And beaches in Mexico like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum are bracing for a big sargassum swarm this week.
One 2019 study found that deforestation and fertilizer use may be responsible for alarming mass growth rates exacerbated by climate change.
“I think I have replaced my climate change anxiety with Sargassum anxiety,” said Patricia Estridge, CEO of Seaweed Generation.
Source: Science Alert
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