March 19, 2023 | 10:31am
Massive accumulations of seaweed that scientists have been tracking for months have begun to wash up in the Sunshine State, and experts warn the worst may still be ahead.
Reports from Key West, Fort Lauderdale, and other South Florida communities show clumps of brown seaweed piling up along beaches that are usually white sand.
University of South Florida Professional Other research institutes have tracked sargassum with the help of satellites and believe the amount of seaweed in the Atlantic Basin is about 6.1 million tonnes, the second highest ever recorded in February. increase.
Dr. Brian Burns, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, watches seaweed and thinks there should be more seaweed offshore in late spring and early summer.
“From around April to July there should be more volume off Florida. However, most of this will stay offshore. “It can impact beaches on a massive scale,” said Barnes.
According to the Florida Department of HealthAlthough seaweed is not harmful to humans, it can still affect them.
Aside from an unpleasant odor resembling rotten eggs, the tiny creatures that live in sargassum can develop rashes and blisters.
Health experts advise against eating seaweed because it can contain high amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium.
Brown algae are actually considered useful for many species of marine life. biologists believe Sediments provide food and shelter for fish, crabs, shrimp and other small creatures.
Sargassum is a far cry from the red tide events that are simultaneously affecting Florida’s beaches, primarily along the Gulf Coast.
Red tide is a noxious algae bloom discovered in southwestern Florida days after Hurricane Ian and expanded in early 2023.
An ongoing toxic event has washed hundreds of fish ashore, and biologists believe that even manatees were affected by high levels of the creature known as Karenia brevis.
Experts haven’t pinpointed why some years produce more algae than others, but point to a combination of factors, including runoff from major waterways.
“It’s hard to know cause and effect, but generally, flowers bloom when the right set of conditions — temperature, light, seeds, and nutrients — are in place,” Burns says.
Algae plumes are not only unpleasant to see and smell, they can cost coastal communities a lot of money to clean up, and events can even drive tourists away.
The Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Center estimates the effort to clean Caribbean beaches from massive blooms at more than $120 million in 2018, causing severe flooding in South Florida. Studies have revealed that the year of Sargassum has a similar effect.
According to one study Critical Sargassum events in the Florida Keys and Monroe County could cost communities heavily dependent on tourism at least $20 million in economic losses and hundreds of local jobs.