Coral smothering 'green tide' seaweed spreading on Florida reefs

rsus how it responds to nitrogen as it occurs naturally in seawater. They will also analyze the chemical signature of macroalgae samples for evidence of which type of nitrogen is driving growth.

In addition, the team will measure the way the macroalgae species reflect light to establish a method for measuring the extent of macroalgae spread in Florida and around the globe using remote sensing from satellites or airplanes.

Lapointe believes that harmful macroalgae blooms are going to continue to spread north and south from Palm Beach County, devastating South Florida reefs, unless the flow of hundreds of millions of gallons of insufficiently treated sewage from offshore outfalls, septic seepage and deep injection wells is stemmed. "At some point the state is going to have to sit back and look at this situation and make some tough choices about how to safely discharge sewage around its coral reefs," says Lapointe.

Lapointe says it is critical that leaders take the threat from the Caulerpa brachypus seriously, and points to other regions that have faced similar problems as examples of why. In the Mediterranean, for instance, government officials essentially ignored the problem when Caulerpa brachypus's cousin, Caulerpa taxifolia, was first found there until it was too late to control. Thousands upon thousands of acres of reef have now been destroyed and billions of dollars worth of damage done.


Contact: Mark Schrope
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution

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