IMAGE: USF scientists have used their research to develop red tide prediction models. view more
Credit: University of South Florida
TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 9, 2016) – Research conducted by a team from the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and the Florida Fist and Wildlife Conversation Commission suggests conditions are such that no major red tide outbreaks should be expected along Florida’s west coast this year. Their conclusions are based on elevated nutrient levels in the Gulf of Mexico that favor the emergence of organisms other than those related to red tide.
The researchers recently published two papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans that help to explain how West Florida Continental Shelf water properties are determined by the ocean circulation and how the circulation affects red tide blooms. The first study describes how the West Florida Continental Shelf – the broad, gently sloping region between the shoreline and the deep Gulf of Mexico – may be ventilated from below by deeper Gulf of Mexico water containing elevated nutrient levels and how these new waters are transported toward the coastline. The second study shows how these concepts may be combined with sea surface height measurements by satellites to predict red tide blooms along Florida’s west coast.
Red tide blooms are defined as high concentrations of the toxic alga, Karenia brevis, which under certain conditions can outcompete other non-toxic algae. According to USF marine scientists, in years of the worst outbreaks, red tide has been responsible for millions of dollars in losses in the shellfish, finfish, recreation and tourism industries. Red tide toxins that end up in the food web can be transferred to other forms of life, from tiny zooplankton to birds, fish and aquatic mammals. State testing is conducted to ensure that commercially harvested seafood is safe for human consumption. Red tide toxins often cause fish kills, and can become aerosolized, causing human respiratory distress especially in and around surf zones. While red tide occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico, …