Spots of seaweed are headed to a beach near you | WIRED

Some reports have also raised concerns about “flesh-eating bacteria” among algae, but there is no evidence for this. When people come into close contact with rotting sargassum, they can experience health problems, including diarrhea, vomiting, and eye irritation, so sometimes it’s more than just an inconvenience. In addition, while local governments have spend millions removing sargassum from the beaches, they extracted large amounts of sand in the process, which accelerated coastal erosion.

Given the problems posed by seaweed, researchers are looking for better ways to track its movement so they can understand what factors influence the degree — and trajectory — of its bloom. flowers of sargassum algae.

“This year has been strange, recalling the record sargassum mass that astronomers have,” said Gustavo Goni, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Atlantic Oceanography & Meteorology Laboratory. scientists discovered floating in the sea during the first few months of 2023. They peaked around March, then, in a highly unusual turn, the excess sargassum began to decline.

NOAA Publishing a regularly updated sargassum report online Estimating the risk of beach flooding around the Gulf of Mexico. The administration works with the University of South Florida to provide this information and the university also give separate data gleaned from satellite surveillance. This suggests that the sargassum belt was particularly wide during May 2018, 2021 and 2022, while in May 2023 it was less, though not much. “This year is still a big sargassum year,” said Chuanmin Hu at the University of South Florida.

Satellite snapshots of the seaweed’s spread are important, but they do not reveal the exact extent of flooding on the ground. Hu and his colleagues collect data from the field, but members of the public also play a role. “We desperately need citizen science,” says Goni, noting that people can submit photos and videos of seaweed to NOAA via the sargassum reporting website. Jimenez-Mariani adds that she regularly shares reports of sightings with scientists.

Hu says many factors can influence the growth and flow of sargassum, as well as whether it actually ends up on a beach—from light levels to ocean currents, winds, temperature and tides.

To better track algae movement in the ocean—before it causes problems on land—Linda Amaral-Zettler at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Marine Research and colleagues are working on ways to tag sargassum or plant drifting trees in the midst of vast seas. its floating block. “The idea is to get a device stuck in a patch and make it move with a patch,” she says of the more drifting devices they are developing.

The tricky thing is that the floating sargassum usually sinks after a short time. “The probability of the card being lost is relatively high,” says Amaral-Zettler. There are more than 350 species of sargassum, she says, but most don’t float—just a few are responsible for the large drifts that cause problems for tourists and locals in towns coast in recent years. Away from the beaches, the sargassum provides an important habitat for turtles And some fish.


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