Beaches Overrun by Smelly Seaweed Could Be the New Normal in Florida

October 11, 2019

Bathers are used to finding a small group of seaweed around the sand or in the waves. But recently, visitors to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Florida beaches may be surprised to find that swimming in seaweed is much more frequent than they would in the summer: Sargassum.

In recent years, common brown seaweed has exploded. Sargassum is now piled up on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, especially during the warmest months of the year. Although stepping into a lot of slippery ocean vegetation may be a little trouble for some people, there is still a problem: the smell of the sauerkraut is unpleasant and it is said to be rotten eggs. It turns the water into a dim, unpleasant brown shadow that has been reported to have spread throughout the Atlantic, from the African coast to the Gulf of Mexico, reaching its peak.

Of course, visitors will not walk to the tropical beach because the waves are blocked by stinking seaweed, so the resort and other seaside travel agencies have begun to clear it. The total cost of removing seaweed from the beaches of the Caribbean is estimated at $120 million in 2018, and there is no indication that the violent attacks on seaweed will soon diminish.

What will fuel the Sargassum?

According to Phys.org, the flowering of algae seems to be caused by two related factors: climate change and increased deforestation in the Amazon. Sargassum prefers warm water, so even a small increase in water temperature can promote growth. In short, the warming ocean is creating better conditions for Sargasso, and algae are breeding.

However, scientists believe that deforestation in the Amazon region is alleviating these conditions. In the past five years, land along the river has been actively cleaned up for cultivation, but (the irony is that this is tragic) the soil is poor, forcing farmers to use fertilizer in large quantities. Some of these fertilizers are washed into the river and eventually rush into the Atlantic Ocean, where they nourish the growing algae bloom. The satellite image shows a large amount of seaweed in the Amazon estuary, which then spreads from the algae to the entire Atlantic Ocean, forming a 5,592-mile long seaweed group called the Great Atlantic Seaweed Belt (GASB).

Between the sheer peaks of seaweed that already exist in the ocean and the conditions that cause seaweed seem to be incompatible, scientists worry that we will only need to get used to putting these things on the beach.

“We think this will be the new normal,” Steve Letterman (aka Dr. Beech) said to Phys.org. “So we will have to find a way to solve this problem, which will be very difficult. “”