A huge seaweed bloom begins to wash ashore on Florida beaches

Massive backlog Seaweed that scientists have tracked for months is starting to wash ashore in the sunshine state, with experts warning the worst is still to come.

Reports from Key West, Fort Lauderdale, and other South Florida communities show clumps of brown seaweed accumulating along usually white sandy beaches.

Experts from the University of South Florida And other institutions have tracked sargassum with the help of satellites and believe the amount of seaweed in the Atlantic basin was about 6.1 million tons, the second-highest amount ever recorded during the month of February.

doctor. Brian Barnes, assistant professor in the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Sciences, monitors seaweed and thinks there should be greater amounts in the sea during the late spring and early summer.

“The larger amounts from Florida should be offshore from April through July or so. However, most of this will remain offshore. If currents and winds dictate, a swath may be pushed ashore to impact beaches on a local scale,” Barnes said. .

According to the Florida Department of HealthSeaweed is not harmful to humans, but it can still produce effects.

Experts believe that the amount of seaweed in the Atlantic basin was about 6.1 million tons.
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Aside from an unpleasant smell, such as that of rotten eggs, the microorganisms that live in Sargassum can produce skin rashes and blisters.

Health experts advise people never to eat seaweed because it may also contain large amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium.

For many species of marine life, brown algae are beneficial, and Biologists believe The accumulation provides food and refuge for fish, crabs, shrimp, and other small organisms.

Beachgoers walking near seaweed.
Seaweed is not harmful to humans, but it can still lead to problems.
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piles of seaweed.
Sargassum microorganisms can produce rashes and blisters.
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Sargassum is completely different from Red tide event which simultaneously affects Florida beaches, especially along the Gulf Coast.

Red tide is a harmful algae bloom that was spotted in the days following Hurricane Ian in southwest Florida and It expanded during early 2023.

The ongoing toxic event caused hundreds of fish to wash ashore, and biologists believe that even the manatee was affected by high levels of the organism known as Karenia brevis.

A tractor plows seaweed washed ashore.
Beach cleanup could cost Florida an estimated $120 million.
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Tractor plowing seaweed.
Seaweed bloom events can damage Florida’s heavy tourism economy.
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Specialists haven’t figured out what causes more algae production on a large scale in some years than others, but they point to a host of variable factors, including runoff from major waterways.

“It’s hard to know why, but in general, flowering will happen when you have the right combination of conditions: temperature, light, seeds and nutrients,” Barnes said.

Aside from being unpleasant to see and smell, algae plumes can cost coastal communities big money to clean up, and events can drive tourists away.

The Global Center for Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management estimated a 2018 effort to clean beaches in the Caribbean from massive booms at more than $120 million, and a study found that a blistering year in South Florida would yield similar effects.

According to a study Held in the Florida Keys and Monroe County, a major sargassum event could cost a region that relies on heavy tourism at least $20 million in economic losses and hundreds of local jobs.

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