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Seaweed assaults South Florida beaches

A fascinating story about what happens in your backyard when nitrogen and phosphorus cycles in far-flung locales go awry.

Today's top story in South Florida's Sun Sentinel naturally focuses on the mess these mats of seaweed are making at local beaches. But the more troubling story is what's driving this surge. And that gets buried.


The obvious local angle is the impact for beach-goers: Rotting piles of vegetation two feet thick, with sea lice and crabs and Yuck!

Deep in the article is a hint at the drivers:

"The massive increases in seaweed appear to be related to the greater availability of the plant nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus."

In the very next sentence, reporter David Fleshler waffles in a classic bit of journalistic equivocation:

"But why their concentrations have increased remains a mystery."

Do we really not know? We've got an incredible dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to run-off from Midwest farms, pollution in the Amazon, over-nitrification from fish farms. Could it be that the interplay of these forces is finally coming to bear in the beaches of South Florida?

This is where good journalism could be a great service. We need to more clearly see the connections between various choices we make in the grocery aisles and elsewhere—and a less-than-pleasant day at the beach.

Read the full story on the Sun Sentinel.

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