Algae is a normal part of aquatic life. It is expected to exist in manageable quantities, however. Think about a home aquarium. Algae eating fish are often purchased to help keep the tank clean. When algae become excessive in large bodies of water it can be incredibly toxic to the inhabitants of the water, as well as to the humans nearby. Florida has been experiencing a what is called a toxic, or red tide for almost a year now. It is considered and emergency at this point.
A red tide is named such for the reddish tint given off by the excessive amounts of algae in the water. This is a yearly event on the Florida coast, and is responsible for the deaths of many sea animals. At present, there are thousands of dead fish floating on the surface. The smell of decay is overwhelming. Humans often suffer breathing problems from the decomposition gases. Species like dolphins and turtles are also affected, lowering the numbers of already endangered animals. Algae is an umbrella term given to differing organisms that reside in aquatic environments and photosynthesize. These organisms include single-celled organisms, large macroalgae (things like kelp), and bacteria.
While red tides are often an annual event, they have become worse in recent years. The longer lasting toxic events can easily run into the winter months and keeps fishing industries from continuing business at many times. The ecosystem that supports healthy sea animals is completely troubled, leaving even the live fish in an unhealthy situation. Eating them, at this point, could be harmful to humans.
Scientists are working on prediction methods to help determine when these tides are on the way. They have become so dangerous that it is necessary to predict them for the safety of humans that live nearby. At present researchers have only been able to form a prediction up to seven days prior to their arrival. The new methods of prediction involve computer analyses and satellite data. Neurotoxins and brevetoxoins should be avoided by most humans, as they can irritate the airways and cause breathing issues in some individuals.
A program to begin prediction studies is called HABScope. Volunteers tale samples of water and a video is recorded of the toxic items moving around. They are also counted in each sample. Environmental conditions, such as ran are also recorded. All this information is added to a model made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This makes an educated guess at breathing situations in the following days. This allows for the public to receive warnings about dangerous conditions on the coast line. Analyzation of a sample used to take scientists one whole day. A volunteer can now complete the process in five minutes with the computer program.
The safety of humans is a main concern with the growing severity of this toxic situation. Sea life is lessening, and humans are in danger of exposure to contaminated food. Agricultural practices and global climate changes are contributing to the worsening of red tides.