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Huge Mass of Seaweed Heading for Florida Beaches

Massive Seaweed Mountain Heading to Florida Beaches.
Beaches of south Florida are about to suffer a gigantic bloom of foul-smelling, brown seaweed washing ashore. Credit: G. Edward Johnson / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

A prominent research professor at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has issued a warning that the beaches of south Florida are about to suffer a gigantic bloom of foul-smelling, brown seaweed washing ashore.

An ecological specialist on macroalgae, Dr. Brian Lapointe, says that stinky clumps of brown seaweed called sargassum have already washed up in great numbers on beaches all over the southern coast of Florida, and more of it is anticipated to come in the coming months.

According to Lapointe, the sargassum bloom that is heading in from the Atlantic Ocean seems to be around 5,000 miles wide. He is concerned that this massive cluster will make landfall and overrun Florida’s beaches, such as Haulover, Sunny Isles Hollywood, and Fort Lauderdale.

Impending Arrival of Sargassum Bloom

Lapointe obtained photographs from some of his co-workers in Key West that showed a significant amount of sargassum washing up on Smathers Beach at the beginning of March. This was relatively uncommon for the time of year.

“I got some photos from some colleagues in Key West showing a lot of sargassum coming into Smathers Beach, and this is very early, this is March 5th,” Lapointe said.

He warned that there will be more to come, and the sargassum is now traveling westward towards the Caribbean area, and it will  be making its way to the Gulf of Mexico and South Florida in the coming months.

According to Lapointe, if the sargassum makes it to the coastlines of the United States, it will be the greatest bloom that has ever been documented to make landfall.

Environmental Impacts of Sargassum Bloom

Sargassum is a type of floating seaweed that provides a critical habitat for many animals, including birds, fish, and turtles. However, when it washes up on beaches in massive quantities, it can have significant environmental impacts.

Sargassum alters the pH balance of the water and can smother coral reefs, affecting their ability to survive and thrive. The bloom could also pose a threat to sea turtle nests on the beaches.

“It can form dead zones as it comes ashore and rots,” he said. “It basically sucks the oxygen out of the water and when you see that happen, you can smell it.”

Clearing Sargassum from Beaches

City officials in Fort Lauderdale reported that they clear sargassum from beaches every morning. They collected twice as much brown seaweed in 2022 compared to the previous year.

While sargassum is beneficial for marine life in its natural environment, it can become a nuisance for beachgoers when it accumulates on the shore in large amounts. The sargassum can also emit an unpleasant odor that can discourage tourists and locals from visiting the affected beaches.

Experts Call for Action

The impending arrival of a massive sargassum seaweed bloom on south Florida beaches has raised concerns among experts about the potential environmental impacts. Lapointe called for immediate action to be taken to reduce nutrient pollution in the ocean, which is the main cause of sargassum blooms.

He says that reducing nutrient pollution will help to prevent sargassum from growing out of control and will protect the environment and marine life. Lapointe also emphasized the importance of educating the public about the impacts of sargassum on the environment and the need to take proactive measures to address the problem.

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