A new story from the ABC 13 news team says that a “seaweed blob” that is 5,000 miles long and was seen near the Gulf of Mexico last week is moving toward Galveston.
A report by Emily Chan of Texas A&M University says that the huge mass is made up of Sargassum, a type of seaweed that tends to gather along beaches in the summer and weighs more than 10 million tons. Sargassum is known to be important for the environment because it “provides homes for different kinds of marine life and helps to strengthen our dunes,” Galveston County officials wrote in a tweet on Friday.
But because of how big this algae bloom is, it is very rare and could be harmful. DistanceFromTo.net says that the distance from Maine to California is about 2,600 miles, which is only about half the length of this seaweed. And no one knows how much Sargassum will actually wash up on Texas beaches, but Gabi Rodriguez of NBC said that some of it have already been found on shores in Florida.
Galveston Country TX tweeted that Sargassum is a nuisance, but it supports our environment by housing marine life and fortifying our dunes. You can see below:
Sargassum can be a nuisance, but it's also critical to our ecosystem, serving as a home for various forms of marine life and helping to fortify our dunes.
Visit https://t.co/ANal5qYiWL or call (281) 534-4152 for more information. pic.twitter.com/izzYSAXMi2
— Galveston County TX (@GalvCoTx) April 21, 2023
Peter Morton, an assistant research scientist at TAMU, told Chan that the buildup of Sargassum could have a big effect on the environment, marine life, human health, and tourism in the area. Morton said, “If the beach is full of Sargassum, the sea turtles won’t be able to nest there because they can’t dig through the Sargassum to get to the sand.” “So, they’re stuck and have nowhere to lay their eggs, so the sea turtle population will go down.”
Morton also said that when Sargassum breaks down, it gives off hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which smells like a rotten egg. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it can be “highly toxic,” which means it can be more than just unpleasant. The OSHA website says, “The effects of hydrogen sulfide on health depend on how much H2S a worker breathes and for how long.” “However, even small amounts have a lot of effects. Effects can be mild, like headaches or irritated eyes, or very bad, like falling asleep or even dying.” You must check the Texas A&M University System Implements Controversial Ban On Diversity Statements In Job Applications.
Morton and his team think that the huge growth is caused by an excess of nutrients in the ocean, specifically a lot of nitrogen and not enough phosphorus. Morton said, “Everything alive is made up of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus.” “So, one way to figure out if an organism is healthy is to look at whether or not these numbers are in balance. We’ve found that the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus in this year’s Sargassum belt is higher than what you’d expect based on data from about 50 years ago, and it’s still going up.
Emily Olson of NPR reported in March that the amount of Sargassum has been growing noticeably since 2011. Since then, it has become so thick and big that satellite images can show it. Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University, told Olson that cleaning up the mess is hard because the seaweed can be hard to break down, and using heavy machinery can risk sea turtle nests and erode shorelines.
Lapointe said that managing the seaweed is important because early study has shown that Sargassum can contain heavy metals like arsenic. He said, “It has a pretty high amount of the poison.” “There is worry that this could affect groundwater through leaching.”
Even though more information is needed before a solution can be found, Lapointe told Olson that the best way to deal with the problem is to clean up major river systems, keep track of these seaweed blooms, and keep them away, especially since they seem to be part of a cycle that’s “only getting bigger and bigger and bigger each year.” You can see the related news about West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler Faces Faculty No-Confidence Vote After Canceling Drag Concert.