What it is and How You Can Help?
Recently in Florida, we’ve seen regular and devastating algae blooms. Lakes, beaches, and intercostal waterways are regularly covered in deadly blue-green algae. These algae blooms are so harmful to other living creatures that people are unable to swim in water where algae blooms are spotted. Marine animals who live in water taken over by algae don’t survive the blooms that take over their fragile ecosystems. This is all because of a human influenced process called eutrophication.
What is Eutrophication?
Eutrophication is a process of overnutrification of a body of water which causes an algae bloom. When agricultural run-off enters a body of water, the excess nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, feed oxygen hungry algae. The algae depletes the oxygen in a body of water causing the marine life that lives there to suffocate and die. This then creates a vicious cycle where decaying aquatic life and plants produce more nutrients through decomposition which continue to feed the algae blooms. It’s believed that red tides, which are also deadly to marine life, may be caused by eutrophication as well.
What are some real consequences of it?
In Miami, the Biscayne Bay has seen a massive die-off or “fish kill.” Dozens of videos online showed fish and and rays washed up on shore in Miami’s coastal parks. In the bay itself, scores of fish were seen floating in the water. The combination of agriculture run off and a previous sea-grass die off both contributed to an algae bloom which deprived thousands of animals the oxygen in the water which they filter through their gills to breathe.
Intercostal waterways in Ft.Lauderdale have been experiencing algae blooms regularly since 2016. The failure of the city to fix and replace sewer systems causes thousands of gallons of waste water to flood waterways. Sewer systems also contribute to eutrophication. The same way cow manure is used as fertilizer, the waste from our toilets adds excessive amounts of nutrients to the water.
How can I help?
The overnutrification of bodies of water is something we all contribute to in ways we may not have considered. The biggest contributor of eutrophication is agriculture run-off. If you’re using fertilizer on your lawn or garden, consider switching to composting. You’ll be sending less waste to landfills while fertilizing your plants naturally! But our impact on the process is only a tenth of the problem. Agricultural run-off contributes to more than three fourths of what causes this deadly process.
Since we can not, on a person to person scale, match the massive amounts of fertilizer produced by agriculture it’s important to focus on how we can change practices in that industry. Paying attention to local petitions and elections are ways to get involved in changing legislation which allows businesses to use unsafe fertilizer practices. When a local election is coming up, research candidates to ensure you vote for ones who are committed to protecting the environment, updating sewer systems, and holding corporations and industries accountable for the damage they cause to local ecosystems. As for our current elected officials, sending them emails or showing up to meetings where the public is allowed to raise issues are a few ways to let them know where their constituents want their efforts focused.
From the air we breathe to the water we drink, we all have the ability to contribute to the protection of what humans and animals need to survive. With a little effort and a lot of compassion, we can all work towards healing what has been neglected on our planet.