Scientists Seek New Ways to Combat Florida's Growing 'Red Tide'

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Scientists Seek New Ways to Combat Florida's Growing 'Red Tide'

In southwest Florida,  poisonous algae covers the typical bright blue seashore with a red rust. The so-called red tide has killed carcasses of marine animals, documenting it as one of the longest cases to date.

Red tides occur worldwide and are caused by different species of algae. The microorganism after the Florida outbreak is Karenia brevis, a marine dinoflagellate that produces brevetoxin - a series of neurotoxic compounds that can be fatal to animals and causes neurological, respiratory, gastrointestinal problems in humans. The bloom of this year leaves behind hundreds of animals including fish, turtles and manatees, dead on the shores of the state. The eruption shows no signs of cooling soon. "These usually occur during flowering," says Marc Suddleson, program manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Intensive Algae Blooms program. "It is possible that the conditions favor the existence of the whole summer during the early autumn."


Fight back

Although there are significant development strategies to see K. brevis and predict the next bloom, effective control measures are still elusive, Suddleson The Scientist said. "Nothing can be done to keep the algae from blooming or to prevent it from becoming toxic." Researchers are currently investigating many ways to eliminate harmful algae. One possibility is to disperse surface clay particles - a technique that produces aggregates of algal cells that are too heavy to remain loose and sink. Scientists are also looking for marine viruses and parasites that can kill K. brevis or other dinoflagellate algae. Although these methods can be reliable though, remain very difficult, according to Suddleson, to find a cost-effective way enough to be used in a large area and safe enough to other organisms.

At the Mote Marine Laboratory, a nonprofit research organization in Florida, scientists plan to begin field trials with a new system to destroy ozone, a reactive molecule to be used on K. brevis and its toxins. The trial, which involves the injection of ozone into the seawater, will take place in the closed region of a canal in Boca Grande, Florida, limiting possible adverse effects on other marine organisms. Vince Lovko, a scientist at Mote said, the researchers finished a successful ozone test system in a 25,000-gallon basin in June. Lovko and his colleagues from Mote is also investigating other methods of algae destruction, such as the use of algae cell filter organisms. His team also found evidence of compounds within macroalgae or kelp that could be fatal to microalgae such as K. brevis.

This happens almost every year in Florida, starting in the Gulf of Mexico, where the powder of microscopic cells of algae called Karenia brevis feeds on nutrients deep into the sea and sometimes waves near shore, often in the fall. The bloom of the Florida Gulf Coast this year was the worst and spreads across 150 miles of coastline covering seven counties. "This is a bad bubble of any standard," said Richard Stumpf, an oceanographer studying red tide for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

For reasons that are not well understood, the strong north wind, which usually emit red water in December, was unchanged after last winter, Stumpf said. It remains to be seen whether a year of modified air patterns would separate departure or a part of longer-term climate change, Stumpf said. But scientists say that the red tide itself is a natural phenomenon. For humans, exposure can cause respiratory problems, burning eyes and skin irritation. The newest bloom is the spawning season for the Snook, an ecologically important and popular wild fish in Florida, Crosby said. Part of the Emergency Fund, which the Governor has appointed, is to assess the impact of this fish.

The scientists in Florida are in the midst of developing a good technique to control toxic algal blooms as a "red tide" spanning along the 150-mile (240 km) stretch of Gulf Coast. Michael Crosby, president and chief executive of the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, received a red tide emergency to this week issued by Governor Rick Scott, which allocates more state funds for research, cleaning, and animal rescue.

Interest in mitigation technologies is triggered by a 10-month toxic algal bloom from the southwest coast of Florida, which caused the tornado of rotting fish to be washed on the beach shores from Tampa to Naples. The jet red is also implicated in at least 266 strandings of sea turtles and is thought to cause death to almost 68 manatees this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Hoping to combat future outbreaks, scientists field a patented process of pumping out red algae spotted within a water treatment plant sighting ozone and then adding the purified water back into the affected channel, bay or inlet, Crosby said. The experiments in large tanks of 25,000 gallons succeeded in removing all traces of algae and their toxins, he said. Scientists are also teaching the possible use of natural compounds from algae and other organisms that can be introduced to control red water.



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