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Water-Related News

Researchers watching for potential algae surges as part of Hurricane Ian aftermath

Levels of blue-green algae surged after Hurricane Irma, causing massive mats and major fish kills months after the storm.

Could this happen again next spring? That, according to Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) ecology and environmental studies professor Barry Rosen, depends on several factors. Blue-green algae competes with aquatic plants for nutrients. If those plant populations were devastated by Ian, that would give the algae more room to grow.

“It’s possible that there’s been a die-off of those plants,” Rosen said, “and this spring when the blue-green algae start populating the river and they can come from the lake, both. What if the competition is gone?”

The algae also needs light to thrive. Right now, the water is still clouded with pollutants and runoff. and light levels are not ideal for a major algal bloom. The cloudiness of the water will change in the next few months, but will it be enough to cause major blooms?

“It’s usually March that you could start to see them,” Rosen says. “So, will it be a bad year? Hard to say.”

“I don’t know if we should expect it,” FGCU Water School professor Mike Parsons said, “but there’s enough evidence that we should definitely look into it and study it.”