Sargassum invasion in Barbados

Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru share the Amazon rainforest with Brazil and have not been exempt from fires and atrocities against indigenous people, and many species of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, and their habitat.

The effects of this massive destruction are also felt around the globe. The British Islands, 2,000 miles from the mouth of the Amazon river, have been dealing with an invasion of sargassum since 2011.  This genus of brown macroalgae that floats in the water provides refuge and food to sea turtles and other sea life and offers nutrients to beaches when it reaches land. However, too much sargassum in the water becomes a problem for marine life to breathe and move.

Once it reaches the ground and starts decomposing, sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which not only smells like rotten eggs but also affects people with asthma and allergies. The invasion of sargassum has become a real new burden for the islands and tourism, their main economic activity.

Dr. Chuanmin Hu, Ph.D. professor of the USF College of Marine Science, has been studying algal bloom formation in coastal waters for many years and has observed the changing behavior of sargassum. Its sudden proliferation is attributed to heavy concentrations of fertilizer that the Amazon river now constantly brings to the ocean.

The high concentration of fertilizer in the Amazon is the result of rampant deforestation for logging and intensive farming and cattle that have been taking place on land that is not even suitable for intensive agriculture. Overproduction of sargassum as a result of excessive fertilizer in the water is just one of the situations that show how the fires taking place in the rainforest also have a substantial negative impact on other parts of the planet.