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Scientist Refutes Red Tide Dogma

BRADENTON – Dr. Larry E. Brand, a professor of marine biology and ecology at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, presented his lecture "Red Tide and Blue/Green Algae, Causes, Human Impacts and Health Consequences" at Suncoast Waterkeeper's annual Brunch for the Bay fundraiser, last Sunday at the Bradenton Yacht Club.

Brand is an expert in the ecology of algae and phytoplankton and holds a Ph.D. from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst./Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His 2007 study on the Karenia brevis algae (red tide) links the long-term increase along the southwest Florida coast to human activity. His research contradicts commonly held theories among other scientists, including the idea that the algal blooms follow a seagrass die-off that occurs after reduced freshwater flow leads to hypersalinity.

Dr. Band's research indicates that the die-off follows the blooms, which are related to the presence of phosphorus in the offshore water that wouldn't normally be there. Band called Florida "essentially a giant limestone mountain out in the middle of the ocean" and said that the west coast's naturally-rich phosphorus holdings provide a key element to the inland waters that when joined by the human-influenced nitrogen runoff carried to the west coast from Lake Okeechobee via the Caloosahatchee River, provides the perfect makings for a bloom.

This year’s red tide event on Florida’s southwest coast is the worst since 2006, killing marine life in unprecedented numbers. Dead fish, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and even the carcass of a whale shark have washed up on the beaches and clogged canals from Tampa Bay to the Florida Keys. Pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and mallard and mottled ducks are also affected by the toxic blooms. What’s worse, the wildlife found dead on beaches or on the ocean surface is only a fraction of the actual toll, as most of the dead animals sink to the bottom of the sea.

You can watch Dr. Band's lecture in its entirety on the Bradenton Times' Facebook page.