Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt now appears almost every year, forming largest record bloom
It weighs 20m tonnes, stretches from west Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, and washes up on beaches creating a malodorous stench. Now scientists say a vast swathe of brown seaweed could be becoming an annual occurrence.
Researchers say the explosion in sargassum seaweed first materialised in 2011. But new research shows it has appeared almost every year since then, forming the largest bloom of macroalgae ever recorded. Whats more, the seaweed band dubbed the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt seems to be getting bigger.
The scientists say the seaweed can be a boon for marine wildlife, providing habitat for creatures including fish and birds.
But it also brings problems. Thick mats can block sunlight, while if large mats die and sink it can prove deadly for marine life, including coral.
The seaweed has also proved devastating for humans. Increasingly huge quantities are washing up in tourist destinations, creating stinking masses that threaten the tourism industry and pose a threat to health. Last month the Mexican state of Quintana Roo declared a state of emergency over sargassum.
There are good implications and there are bad implications, said Dr Chuanmin Hu, co-author of the study from the University of South Florida. Many people in the Caribbean are literally crying because their economy has suffered so much.
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