Friday, August 24, 2018

The Algae Blooms Are a Real Problem, Even for the Keys

A/C Filter Filled With Algae
This year we have had an additional amount of algae down here in the keys.  How do I know, the best scientific indicator I have at my access,my Air Conditioner.  Living on a boat, my A/C unit draws seawater into the condenser to chill the gasses and algae clogs this system.  I have had to clean the filter and back flush the system more often this year than normal.  Not a highly scientific instrument, but a good indicator.  
   Here in the Keys, where many take the preservation of our natural resources so seriously, blue green algae is cause for alarm even though it isn’t in the Florida Bay.  But it is closely related to local problems in Florida Bay — specifically the drought of 2015 that killed approximately 50,000 acres of sea grass. The algae to the north, and the high salinity conditions of Florida Bay. Both connected to the reconfiguration of the Everglades in the early 20th century to “drain the swamp.”
Blue Green Algae
Can the “blue green algae” bloom spread to the Keys?
The short answer is NO.  “Once it’s exposed to saltwater, it dies. The idea that it would make it all the way down to the Keys is not plausible,” said Shannon Estenoz, a Key West native and chief operating officer for the Everglades Foundation.  The algae clogging the Caloosahatchee River to the west of Lake Okeechobee, and the St. Lucie River to the east, is a freshwater bacteria that is able to photosynthesize. The nutrients, or agricultural fertilizer, are the fuel of the crisis.
Have there been algae blooms in the Keys?
Yes, but not like that.  Algae blooms in the Keys are the result of “die-offs” or temperature spikes. When the water gets too salty, or too warm, seagrass dies. Its nutrients are then released into the water column, acting as a natural fertilizer for algae.  “That sets off a chain reaction,” said Tom Van Lent, of the Everglades Foundation and a resident of Key Largo. “Small algae clogs the pores of sponges which clean water, and when the sponges die, that blocks even more light and kills more seagrass.”
What about the red tide?
Red Tide
It’s a naturally occurring algae bloom, first reported in the 16th Century by exploring Spaniards. It only occurs in saltwater and it originates offshore, so the connection to man made pollution is unclear Scientists monitor red tide. There is no reported bloom in the Florida Keys currently. Scientists can forecast red tide movement using wind and water current data. In addition to killing fish, it can also affect the human respiratory system. Not to sound too technical here, but it feels “burny”, both in the lungs and in the eyes.