Heartbreak in the Headlines: Florida’s Algae Blooms - 4Ocean

Heartbreak in the Headlines: Florida’s Algae Blooms

by 4Ocean Team October 08, 2018

Heartbreak in the Headlines: Florida’s Algae Blooms

Discover what 4ocean is doing to address the harmful algal blooms affecting Florida and the Gulf


Florida is experiencing an incredibly bad outbreak of toxic algae. And anyone who’s seen the headlines knows just how devastating this harmful algal bloom has been. 

It’s killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of sea creatures. Entire schools of fish, endangered sea turtles and manatees, shellfish, dolphins and countless others have succumbed to this harmful algal bloom.

Residents, hopeful vacationers, and beachgoers have gotten sick from breathing air contaminated by toxins emitted by the bloom. The local economy, which relies on both seafood and tourism, has been severely impacted.

Florida is our home. The waters of the Gulf and the Atlantic are in our backyard. And while we’re heartbroken by these impacts, we are not hopeless.


Algal blooms occur naturally, powering the food chain 

Algal blooms are natural events that, for the most part, actually benefit ocean life. Algae is a type of plant that lives in both the ocean and freshwater, acting as a source of food and energy that powers entire food chains. But there are many different kinds of algae...and not all of them are beneficial.


Not all algal blooms are beneficial, though

Blue-green algae blooms are what scientists call harmful algal blooms (HABs), which occur when toxin-producing algae grow out of control. While these HABs are also natural annual events, the severity of this bloom is what makes it unique. Hard-hitting, far-reaching, and long-lasting, it’s not a question of what’s causing these HABs to occur, we know that, but what’s making them so severe.


4ocean is helping fund crucial HAB research in Florida 

To support our community and help create solutions, we’re contributing to research that will be performed by the Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (FAU HBOI). With our support, the HBOI will be able to research the role of nutrients and how they contribute to the severity of harmful algal blooms.


Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute will study sources of nutrient saturation 

We already know that water saturated by nutrients (like nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron) is the driving force that causes naturally-occurring algae and cyanobacteria to grow into harmful blooms. FAU HBOI’s study will address overlooked nutrient sources that have not been studied in sufficient detail or are unknown.

Researchers will focus specifically on potential sources of increased nutrients coming from mainland Florida, which may impact the severity of blooms on Florida’s coasts. These sources include Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River, Peace River, and more general terrestrial runoff.

“In order to carry out this project, several lines of research need to occur simultaneously,” says the HBOI. “First, we need better documentation of the seasonal cycles and dynamics of the Microcystis populations in the lake and second, we need better quantification of nutrient concentrations and sources feeding into the lake and enhancing algae growth.”


What happens when the FAU HBOI study is over 

Once the institute collects this nutrient data, they can link it to the severity and growth of the HABs using spatial and temporal monitoring data. This data will be shared with federal, state, county, and municipal agencies so the issue can be addressed and solutions implemented through policy changes.


How you can show your support

If you’d like to get involved and do something to help address Florida’s algae crisis, helping fund this crucial research is the way to go. We’ll match all donations for the next 30 days until we reach our goal of $22,000 raised. Go here to donate.

4Ocean Team
4Ocean Team


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