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HomeSCIENCE24 million tons of apricot algae cover the Caribbean coast

24 million tons of apricot algae cover the Caribbean coast


Yellow-brown algae spreads across the Caribbean coast from Puerto Rico and Barbados, killing fish and wildlife, and releasing noxious gases.

Algae on the beach in st. Andrew on july 27. Photo: ap

Algae on the beach in St. Andrew on July 27. Image: AP

More than 24 million tons of apricot algae blanketed the Caribbean coast and the Gulf of Mexico in June, breaking the previous record of 20 million tons in 2018 (up 20%), according to the University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Laboratory. Phys.org reported on 3/8. This unusually large amount of brown algae washed ashore. A carpet of algae surrounds an uninhabited island near the overseas territory of St. Martin of France, forcing authorities to suspend ferry services, kayaking, paddle boarding and scuba diving tours. The turquoise sea surrounding Pinel Island became a yellow-brown mud.

Scientists say more research is needed to determine why algal blooms in the region are so high, but the United Nations’ Caribbean Environment Program says possible causes include temperatures As water increases due to climate change, nitrogenous fertilizers and wastewater help feed the algae. “This year is the worst year in history,” said Lisa Krimsky, a researcher in the Florida Sea Grant program that specializes in coastal protection. “Apricot algae completely destroyed the area. The excessive amount of algae had a serious impact on the environment. The decaying algae changed the water temperature and pH balance, leading to a decrease in seagrasses, corals and foam. sea”.

Algae densities are so high in parts of the eastern Caribbean that Guadeloupe declared a health emergency in late July. Local authorities warned some communities about hydrogen sulfide gas emitted from these areas. Huge pile of rotting algae. This rotten egg-like gas can affect people with respiratory conditions such as asthma.

Last month, the United States also declared a federal emergency after the Virgin Islands reported a large amount of apricots that blocked machinery at a desalination refinery near St. Croix, making it difficult for the facility to produce water and meet demand during a drought situation. In addition, the power plant on the islands also relies on purified water from the desalination plant to reduce emissions. Disrupted water would force the government to use a more expensive and limited-edition diesel fuel.

Moderate amounts of apricots help filter water and absorb carbon dioxide, which is an important part of the habitat of fish, turtles, shrimp, crabs and many other creatures. Algae are also used in fertilizers, feeds, biofuels, building materials and pharmaceuticals. But if it accumulates too much offshore or on the beach, it will harm the tourism industry and the environment. On Union Island in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines, seaweed invasion forced some resorts to close for five months in recent years.

Apricots also damage the fishing industry in the Caribbean, destroying boat engines and fishing gear or preventing fishermen from getting close to ships and fishing grounds. The abundance of apricot algae is believed to be the cause of the recent mass deaths of thousands of fish on the French island of Martinique. Animal activists are also concerned about the state of endangered sea turtles. Some were caught in seaweed or were unable to lay eggs due to a blanket of algae covering the sandy shore.

In the Cayman Islands, authorities once conducted a pilot program to dump more than 268 square meters of algae into the water. But on August 2, they announced to stop the project because the algae decomposed so much that the destruction became useless. Some island nations use machines to remove algae from beaches, but scientists warn the practice causes erosion and could destroy endangered turtle nests.

An Khang (Follow Phys.org)

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