Florida Will Be the Home for a Rotten Blog of Seaweed
The enormous mass is moving westward and will soon move across the Caribbean and into the northern Gulf of Mexico, bringing seaweed to Florida beaches sometime in July.
This summer, the beaches of Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean might be disrupted by a seaweed blob stretching over 5,000 miles. From orbit, you can make out a band of seaweed known as the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB). Since 2011 scientists have tracked it as it travels over the ocean for thousands of kilometers.
Holopelagic sargassum, a common form of seaweed in the Sargasso Sea, makes up the GASB. The bridge is more of a haphazard assemblage than one solid structure, yet it spans a considerable distance.
Human activities like intense soya cultivation in the Amazon basin and increasing nutrient runoff from rivers into the Atlantic Ocean fuel this seaweed bloom. Massive sargassum mats have formed due to an increase in sargassum growth brought on by the nutrient enrichment of the water.
We may anticipate this year's bloom to continue growing until it reaches its peak in June or July, making it the largest March bloom on record. The effects of the algae are becoming more concerning to scientists.
To be clear, seaweed is often harmless and even beneficial since it may serve as homes for fish and soak up excess carbon dioxide. In contrast, this only occurs when the ship is far from land.
Damage to beaches may occur if sargassum, a kind of brown algae, is carried by ocean currents to shore, as is happening right now with a bloom that is almost twice the breadth of the United States.
Not only does the seaweed carry a foul odor with it, but it also presents other challenges.
As soon as sargassum reaches land, the process of decomposition may begin. As this process starts, it results in the emission of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia gas. These gases are both poisonous. Those with a sensitive respiratory system or illnesses like asthma may have more complications due to this. Also, it may contribute to greater environmental issues.
It is quite improbable that it will pose a significant risk to human life, but the fact that it is becoming worse suggests that it may be a portent of things to come that are far more dangerous.
According to the Florida Department of Health, seaweed cannot give people cancer in any way, shape, or form. This should put an end to any myths to the contrary. Nevertheless, due to the possibility that sargassum contains significant amounts of arsenic and other heavy metals, it is not recommended to be consumed.
If you want to take children to an impacted beach, you must constantly watch them to ensure they are protected from seaweed. Swimming close to the sargassum is not a good idea since critters like jellyfish can be hiding inside it. Always use gloves while handling it to avoid getting your hands dirty. Individuals who have trouble breathing should restrict the amount of time they spend at the beach or completely avoid going there.
Moreover, the algae may reduce air quality, endanger animals, damage infrastructure, choke coral, and cause other problems for coastal ecosystems.
Dead and decaying sargassum on the beach gives out a rotten-egg odor, which has been a major concern for the tourist industries in both Mexico and Florida.
For instance, hotels and resorts in Mexico spend millions of pesos annually employing people to remove and relocate sargassum off beaches.
Sargassum is very diverse, with hundreds of distinct species. Some of the Atlantic Ocean's algae are free-floating, as opposed to the rooted algae that are more common.
The effects of the Sargassum Belt have been a source of worry for scientists for the last ten years. According to a piece written by Denise Chow and broadcast on Saturday by NBC News, experts have expressed concern about the severity of this year's bloom.
Based on what we can see in the satellite picture, this will not seem to be a year with pristine beaches. According to Brian LaPointe, a research professor at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute of Florida Atlantic University, "It's astounding." This quote was given to NBC News.
During the course of the previous five years, the average size of blooms has been steadily increasing over that time period. According to Brian Barnes, an assistant research professor at the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, who spoke with NBC News, the years 2018 and 2022 will see rises that will set new records.
Research that was conducted in 2019 revealed that the alarming pace at which the mass is rising might be the result of deforestation and the usage of fertilizer. The consequences of all of these factors are all being compounded by climate change.
Patricia Estridge, the chief executive officer of Seaweed Generation, was quoted in The Guardian as saying, "I guess I've replaced my climate change fear with sargassum anxiety."
"Changes in the climate and activities carried out by humans both play a part, although it is impossible to determine the relative importance of each factor. Due to the expansive nature of the Atlantic Ocean, there are a number of contributing factors: "Hu stated. "This is a really intricate painting. That is all we can tell at this time, and our investigation into the reason for this is still ongoing."
To counteract a recent bloom of red tide algae off the southwestern coast of Florida, Senator Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, has requested that the Environmental Protection Agency take action.
Scott sent a letter to the Administrator of the EPA, Michael Regan, requesting answers regarding the agency's treatment of the bloom. In the letter, Scott asked Regan questions such as what data the agency is collecting, how it is cooperating with local agencies, what it is doing to combat and prevent future algae blooms, and when an interagency task force will arrive. He referenced his efforts to battle a previous bloom in 2018, while he was still serving as governor of Florida, as an example of a successful attempt.
After that, he said, "Florida developed a multipronged strategy to address the repercussions as swiftly as feasible." This approach encompassed government on both the state and municipal levels. "Building on this, I worked with Senator Marco Rubio during the previous Congress to pass our South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act, which requires an inter-agency task force to develop a plan to reduce, mitigate, and control harmful algal blooms and hypoxia in South Florida. I had the president sign it into law." "Our South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act requires an inter-agency task force to develop a plan to reduce, mitigate, and control harmful algal blooms and hypoxia in South Florida."
The most recent bloom of red tide started in October and has since expanded over seven counties, forcing residents of the area to suffer from health issues and taking the lives of numerous marine animals. Residents have reported having burning eyes and respiratory issues in locations with high concentrations, and 36 individuals have been admitted to poison control centers in conjunction with it.
According to the University of Central Florida, there is no known technique to avoid the naturally occurring blooms of red tide algae. But, scientists are now investigating alternative approaches to find a solution. Researchers are checking for any unwanted side effects before trying it on a larger scale, but one proposed option is to pour a clay mixture on top of it to sink it into the ocean bottom. This would be done to get rid of the problem.