What is Florida red tide?
A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organism). In marine (saltwater) environments along Florida’s west coast and the elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes red tides is Karenia brevis, often abbreviated as K. brevis. To distinguish K. brevis blooms from red tides caused by other species of algae, researchers in Florida call it “Florida red tide.”
What causes Florida red tide?
The Florida red tide alga, Karenia brevis, needs the following components to form a bloom. The first is biology — the organism must be present in the water and it must out-compete other phytoplankton. The second is the correct chemistry — this includes the appropriate temperature, salinity, and nutrients that it needs to grow and multiply. The third component is the right physical conditions to concentrate and transport K. brevis. The fourth component is ecology – the presence or absence of other life forms, such as other marine algae that may encourage or inhibit K. brevis blooms.
Has coastal (nutrient) pollution caused Florida red tide?
In contrast to the many red tide species that are fueled by nutrient pollution associated with urban or agricultural runoff, there is no demonstrated direct link between nutrient pollution and Karenia brevis red tide formation or frequency (how often they occur). Florida red tides develop 10-40 miles offshore, away from human-contributed nutrient sources. Red tides occurred in Florida long before human settlement, and severe red tides were observed in the mid-1900s before the state’s coastlines were heavily developed. However, once red tides are transported to shore, they are capable of using human-contributed nutrients for their growth.
For more information on Florida red tide and to see red tide maps and current beach conditions, click the link to the Mote Marine website. mote.org/research/program/environmental-health/beach-conditions-report-red-tide-information