A giant brown seaweed bloom is moving toward the beaches of Florida and Mexico, where the seaweed could wreak havoc on beaches and local ocean life.
Where is the giant seaweed bloom?
The giant sargassum bloom, called the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, is floating in the Atlantic Ocean between the Gulf of Mexico and West Africa. But ocean currents are now pushing large amounts of the seaweed to the shores of South Florida and parts of the Yucatán Peninsula, NBC News reported.
How big is the seaweed bloom?
The 5,000-mile-long Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt is “by far the biggest seaweed bloom on the planet,” according to The Guardian.
It’s so huge, in fact, that in can be seen from space.
Is the giant seaweed bloom dangerous?
When a sargassum bloom is in the open ocean, it’s actually good for the environment because it can absorb carbon dioxide while providing a habitat for fish and crustaceans, according to The Hill.
But when the seaweed starts to come closer to shore, pushed by ocean currents, the effects can be dangerous to human and ocean life.
Brian Barnes, an assistant research professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, told NBC News that large amounts of seaweed can “threaten critical infrastructure.”
“Even if it’s just out in coastal waters, it can block intake valves for things like power plants or desalination plants, marinas can get completely inundated and boats can’t navigate through,” he said.
When the seaweed rots, it also releases hydrogen sulphide, which can cause several health problems such as headaches, eye irritation, unconsciousness and even increased risk of pregnancy complications, The Guardian reported.
The mass of seaweed also impacts ocean life as it nears the shore.
The seaweed can “choke corals, wreak havoc on coastal ecosystems and diminish water and air quality as it rots,” per NBC News.