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By now you must have seen all the posts on social media about the catastrophy that is the burning of the Amazon Forest.

While I was in St Barts I noticed that some beaches had some sort of algae. Some with just small patches and some with thick layers.  Locals explained that unfortunately, because of Intensive farming in Brazil and deforestation of the Amazon… the whole of the Caribbean was struggling with “Sargasses” (Sargassum).

It does come and go. It could be good on one day and bad the next (for each beach). On this particular stretch of land, it was piled high (no beach so less likely to be clean manually)

Sargassum is a genus of brown macroalgae (seaweed). The Atlantic Ocean’s Sargasso Sea* was named after the algae, as it hosts a large amount of Sargassum.

In summer 2015, large quantities of different species of Sargassum accumulated along the shores of many of the countries on the Caribbean Sea (…).  Another large outbreak occurred in 2018.  The algae wash ashore, pile up on beaches, and decay, often causing a foul odor, releasing fumes of sulfur compounds (…)

Researchers say that the Sargassum outbreak started in 2011, but it has become worse over the years.  As it is cleaned up on the shorelines, in a matter of a week, the shorelines are once again filled in masse(…).  Several factors could explain the proliferation of Sargassum in the area in recent years.  These include the rise of sea temperature and the change of sea currents due to climate change. Also, nutrients from agricultural fertilizers and wastewater from the cities that end up in the sea could also make the algae bloom.  Deforestation and fertilizer use are among the factors thought to be driving the growth.  “As people cut down more trees, when precipitation occurs, more nutrients can be washed off into the river,” (…)  “And when rain washes up on the land, fertilizers can potentially leech into the water itself.

”Some species of Sargassum – a group of seaweed – live on the ocean’s surface, where they attract fish, birds, and turtles.  “In the open ocean, Sargassum provides great ecological values, serving as a habitat and refuge for various marine animals.”  However, too much of the seaweed can smother corals and seagrasses, and end up on beaches, releasing gas that smells like rotten eggs.

* yes, the same Saragossa Sea with the high concentration of non-biodegradable plastic waste aka the huge North Atlantic Garbage Patch. 

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