Monday, July 18, 2016

Warming Could Mean More Algae Blooms like Florida’s

A blue-green algae bloom in Florida's Lake Okeechobee. Due to releases of water, the algae spread through the St. Lucie Canal and out to the coastal waters near Stuart, Fla. (Credit: NASA) Click to Enlarge.
Nearly 240 square miles of Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in Florida, are covered in a scum of blue-green algae that has also traveled down nearby waterways and out to the coastline.

The stinking sludge has impacted local ecosystems and the tourism industry and caused Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in the affected counties.

The algae bloom is the result of a combination of factors, including the abundant nutrients washed in from surrounding agricultural lands, heavy winter rains and hot, calm summer weather.  In the future, such blooms could become more common as Earth’s rising temperature heats up lakes and oceans, providing a more favorable home for algae and other potentially toxic microorganisms in the water.
The algae are a major concern because of the potential harm they can do both to the local ecosystems and human health.  They can release toxins that can cause respiratory problems in humans and can be deadly to local fish and other aquatic species.  As they die, the algae also use up the available oxygen in the water, creating so-called dead zones.  Dying algae also release a pungent odor that can mean tourists stay well away, hitting the local economy.

Warmer Waters, More Algae
Lakes and oceans are warming up as they absorb some of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere.  According to the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the oceans around Florida could warm by 1.8° to 5.4°F (1° to 3°C) by the end of the century depending on emissions levels.

Read more at Warming Could Mean More Algae Blooms like Florida’s

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