This 5,000-mile-wide mass of seaweed is heading for Florida. Could this bring any issues? Read on to find out the implications for Florida and the Caribbean.
Sargassum, a type of seafood, is known for its tendency to accumulate in large clumps in the Atlantic Ocean. Researchers have monitored these accumulations for years, and the most recent is speculated to be the largest on record, spanning more than 5,000 miles from the coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.
Presently, the glob of seaweed is travelling west and foreseen to enter the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico prior to summer. This suggests that it will reach the coast of Florida sometime in July.
Last December, the current blob began to take shape, and by January its size had doubled. This large bloom has been a major problem for Caribbean tourism, as seaweed has been piling up on beaches to depths of 6 feet in some spots. Barbadians are using thousands of dump trucks a day to clean the beaches and transport away the algae. Not only does this seaweed look bad, but it is also odiferous.
Sargassum is a term encompassing over 300 varieties of brown seaweed, with Sargassum natans and Sargassum fluitans existing in the Atlantic.
This critical habitat offers a safe haven and sustenance for many marine creatures, including loggerhead sea turtles, birds, mammals, and fish.
Seaweed is usually a positive presence in the Atlantic Ocean, however, when it reaches shore it can pose a threat, as its stench is similar to that of rotten eggs.
The gas released as this type of seaweed dies is toxic to humans, and can result in respiratory issues. Moreover, it is also detrimental to human flesh. Therefore, beachgoers must be sure to stay away from the decaying algae when it moves onto the shore.
The escalating amounts of seaweed pose an economic challenge as well. Cleaning the poisonous algae necessitates a substantial investment, which could be a huge challenge for Caribbean countries that lack the necessary funds.
Various environmental components can alter the presence of this type of seafood, such as fluctuations in rainfall, wind direction, and ocean currents. An elevated quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus in the ocean can also provide the algae with the sustenance it needs to grow.
As the mass drifts closer to the U.S mainland, scientists are still attempting to ascertain its impacts on beaches. Some researchers suggest that technology should be employed to lower the seaweed to the depths of the ocean, to prevent it from reaching crowded shorelines. Additionally, the algae could be harvested for beneficial purposes.
It is certain that this advancing science will adjust as researchers gather more facts. Although the nearness of this seaweed aggregation to the U.S. is worrying, it additionally gives scientists the chance to gain further understanding of natural oceanic occurrences.