An overabundance of seaweed has been washing ashore on both coasts of Florida. Since January, news media in Broward County have reported that 1,000 tons of seaweed has been removed from the shore in Fort Lauderdale. Beaches on the Gulf Coast especially those in Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties have been affected.
Experts call the seaweed sargassum or gulfweed, a brown algae of a variety normally found in deep water that provide habitat in the deep sea environment. Scientists speculate on links to shifting sea currents or increased nutrient sources as causes for the abundance. Others feel that the seaweed washing ashore after Tropical Storm Debby is probably not a coincidence. What can be agreed on is that it rots on the beach and interferes with some people’s ability to enjoy the shoreline.
Seaweed plays a very important role in beach ecology: it contains tiny crabs and fish that beach birds love to eat. It also holds nutrients, which act as a natural fertilizer for dune grasses, and it helps beaches build back from erosion by holding back the sand.
For now, some cities are cleaning it up. Others are letting nature do the job.