There are several factors that determine the level of each year's algae bloom in Florida and its relative harmfulness. Warmer than average winters, with no freezing temperatures to complete a normal nature cycle could really spell trouble for Florida waterways, beginning as early as this spring.
The EPA warns:
Harmful algae usually bloom during the warm summer season or when water temperatures are warmer than usual. Warmer water due to climate change might favor harmful algae in some of ways:
- Toxic blue-green algae prefer warmer water.
- Warmer temperatures prevent water from mixing, allowing algae to grow thicker and faster.
- Warmer water is easier for small organisms to move through and allows algae to float to the surface faster.
- Algal blooms absorb sunlight, making water even warmer and promoting more blooms.
- Climate change might lead to more droughts, which make freshwater saltier. This can cause marine algae to invade freshwater ecosystems. In the Southwestern and South Central United States, toxic marine algae have been killing fish in freshwater lakes since 2000.
- Algae need carbon dioxide to survive. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air and water can lead to rapid growth of algae, especially toxic blue-green algae that can float to the surface of the water.
- Climate change might affect rainfall patterns, leading to alternating periods of drought and intense storms. This can cause more nutrient runoff into waterbodies, feeding more algal blooms.
- Drought conditions can severely impact waterways both vast and small as was the case with the Mississippi River after one of the worst droughts in recorded history. The Army Corps of Engineers deployed more than a dozen dredging vessels to address the drought's affect on the Mississippi to make the river, channels, and surrounding waterways passable once more. Dredging was beneficial on a massive scale in the case of the Mississippi, but dredging after a drought is advantageous for all waterways. A few benefits of dredging after a drought include:
- Marine Life Protection - When water levels deplete in any natural body of water, marine plant and animal life are deprived of vital oxygen they need to survive. Hundreds - if not thousands of fish die off, causing a complete disruption in the waterway's ecosystem. Dredging creates ideal environments for fish and marine life by creating pockets in the bottoms of riverbeds and streams.
- Access to Recreation and Enjoyment - When water levels deplete in a waterway typically enjoyed by people, activities cease. Dredging increases recreational opportunities for fishing, boating, windsurfing, and swimming, among other activities.
- Control Unsightly Overgrowth - while drought causes water to deplete, enough moisture stays behind in even an almost completely "dried out" lake or pond to promote the rapid growth of algae and weeds. Dredging increases the irrigation storage capacity and controls unsightly weed or algae growth.
- Prevent Shoreline Erosion and Improve Water Health- When a body of water is dredged, the chances of shoreline erosion are reduced. The sediment contains pollutants from industrial runoff and significantly affects the water quality. When pollutants and sediments are removed, the overall health of the body of water improves.
- We are looking at a new day and age when it comes to climate, weather, and what we can predict. The safest way to protect your Florida waterway is by having it dredged today.