What’s Happening in Marco Island – News – Red Tide Facts and Myths
Red Tide Facts and Myths
Shared from Collier County, Florida
Curious about Red Tide? Rhonda Watkins, Principal Environmental Specialist, debunks the myths!
Red tide is a common name for an algal bloom and the bloom takes on a red or brown color. Red tides are events in which estuarine, marine, or fresh water algae accumulate rapidly in the water column, resulting in coloration of the surface water. It is usually found in coastal areas. It kills many manatees and fish every year.
These algae, a form of phytoplankton, are single-celled protists, plant-like organisms that can form dense, visible patches near the water’s surface.
Certain species of phytoplankton, dinoflagellates, contain photosynthetic pigments that vary in color from green to brown to red. When the algae are present in high concentrations, the water appears to be discolored or murky, Not all algal blooms are dense enough to cause water discoloration, and not all discolored waters associated with algal blooms are red.
Red tides in the Gulf of Mexico are a result of high concentrations of Karenia brevis, a microscopic marine algae that occurs naturally but normally in lower concentrations. In high concentrations, its toxin paralyzes the central nervous system of fish so they cannot breathe. Dead fish have been observed to wash up on gulf beaches and this happens in Marco Island during a red tide. It is a natural phenomenon, but the exact cause or combination of factors that result in a red tide outbreak are unknown. Red tide causes economic harm and for this reason red tide outbreaks are carefully monitored. For example, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides an up-to-date status report on the red tide in Florida.
The toxins of Karenia brevis can also be carried by surf, winds, or breaking waves. The inhalation by humans of red-tide toxins may cause runny nose, coughing, and wheezing, especially in persons with asthma. In healthy individuals, there seems to be a quick reversal of symptoms by leaving the beach area.
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