Monday November 13, 2006

Algae in Biscayne Bay

Algae in Biscayne Bay

We’re on year 2 of a strange blue-green algae infestation of Biscayne Bay. Algae is an important part of the ecosystem, providing food for microscopic animals. But when it goes wild like this, it disturbs the balance of the whole ecosystem. Light doesn’t get down to the grasses that live on the Bay’s bottom, so they start to die off. Then the crabs and fish that eat the grasses start to die. Before long, you could end up with a dead zone kind of like they’ve got in the Gulf of Mexico.

What’s causing the bloom? Well, algae feed on phosphorous, so the short answer is that it’s an increase in the levels of the big-P in the bay. How’d it get there? Check out an Appendix to a South Florida Water Management District report [PDF link; here is a text version] looks at that question. They’re sure it’s a combination of factors, but seem to settle on a sort of combination C-111/Wilma theory.

It goes like this: the C-111 collects water from around Florida City and dumps it in the bay. Normally, no problem. But “hurricane disturbances” last year caused a whole lot of that water to flow all at once last year. Right after that is when phosphorous levels, and the algae, first went wild. Normally, the cold weather of the winter would have killed the algae off, and indeed it did help. But when they did some tests in June and July of this year, the levels were back up. Not good.

Oh, and where’s the phosphorous coming from? Scroll to the bottom of this page and it’ll start to make sense: “The C-111 canal drains from north to south through an intensely-cultivated agricultural area between Homestead, Florida and Everglades National Park.” That’s right, el azĂșcar grande. Thanks again, guys!

(via Curtis Morgan, here and here)

Disclaimer: The photo above may or may not be related to the current algae bloom. I am not a scientist, and I don’t know shit about shit. I love sugar, especially the cheap, delicious, bleached kind. Yum!

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