Excess nitrogen turns sargassum into toxic algae infestation

By Ivonne Malaver

Miami, Jun 3 (EFE).- Sargassum, a seaweed vital for marine wildlife, is becoming toxic due to an excessive level of nitrogen and invading US beaches, a scientific report showed.

Famous for their white sandy beaches, Florida and the Caribbean are slowly being infested by the toxic algae, creating a brown stream of smelly seaweed.

The level of nitrogen has increased by 111% which is both “a big surprise” and “a big problem,” according to Florida Atlantic University professor Brian Lapointe.

The excessive nitrogen levels are a result of human activity, which have greatly altered global levels of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles, according to Lapointe.

“We need to reduce land-based nutrient pollution, both in Florida as well as the major rivers draining into the Atlantic basin,” he said.

The population growth and change in land-use since the 1950s is also to blame for the increase.

The high levels of nitrogen are turning important natural habitats into harmful algal blooms with catastrophic impacts on coastal ecosystems, economies and human health, the research showed.

“Sargassum blooms along beaches can result in high concentrations of toxic hydrogen sulphide gas,” Lapointe explained.

Health authorities have warned that the gas can be dangerous for people with asthma.

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