Red Tide Worsens in Florida

Red tide is common in southwest Florida. Over the years, many aquatic animals have been killed by this deadly phenomenon including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles, not to mention thousands of fish. The carcasses of these animals rot and emit putrid odours that affect the health and wellbeing of communities in the area.

Scientists have expressed concern that the problem of red tide is becoming worse. This year’s red tide began in November 2017 and has lasted for a year now, the longest since 2006, which lasted for 17 months. Biologists even discovered a body of a young whale shark that is believed to have been killed by red tide. In its most recent assessment, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that red tide is impacting around 145 miles of coastline, including the Atlantic Coast.

What is Red Tide

Red tide is a result of the overgrowth of a certain kind of algae known as dinoflagellate. They are present in lakes, rivers and oceans. The one that is affecting the coast from Sanibel Island to Tampa Bay is the toxic algae, Karenia brevis. The term red tide comes from the way these blooms cause the bodies of water to literally turn blood red.

With excessive algal growth, aquatic species die from hypoxia or oxygen depletion. As the remains of the dead animals decompose, it feeds the bacteria present in the water causing them to multiply. The result is an oxygen-depleted dead zone where almost no creatures can survive.

Red tide is a health hazard because of the neurotoxin produced by the bacteria can go airborne and severely affect patients suffering from asthma or other serious respiratory issues.

Fertilizers Make Algal Blooms Worse

Agriculture and its use of fertilizers is a major contributor to algal blooms. Once fertilizers enter the water ecosystem, their high concentration of nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, causes algae to overmultiply resulting in blooms. Florida’s agriculture sector is a heavy user of fertilizers that support the growth of sugarcane, tomatoes and corn.

Compounding the problem is the issue of climate change. Scientists have clearly demonstrated that there is a positive and synergistic relationship between water temperature, nutrients and algal blooms. They warn that as temperatures rise, if humans maintain the same level of nutrient pollution in the water, algal blooms will be impossible to control. They are calling for urgent action to regulate nutrient runoff into lakes, rivers and estuaries.

Use of Biosolids Can Help Control the Problem

Biosolids may present a solution to mitigate this problem. It is known that nutrients found in biosolids typically are less water soluble than those in chemical fertilizers. This means they are more likely to stay in the soil and less likely to end up in waterways after field application. As the organic matter in biosolids improve soil structure, it also reduces erosion and prevents undesirable runoff since nutrients tend to be bonded to the soil particles.

Biosolids not only improve ecosystems by providing nourishment to crops and plants, they are also a better alternative to help reduce nutrient pollution and soil erosion.

If you are a municipality in Ontario and in need of a biosolids management solution, please feel free to contact us on 1 (877) 479-1388.

Sources:
https://phys.org/news/2018-08-florida-algae-crisis.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20048319

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