Whether you see it, smell it or hear about it, red tide is impacting all of our lives in Southwest Florida at this moment. We are all wondering how this happened and when it will end.
Red tide is a true catastrophe that has us questioning, contemplating and grieving.
Some blame Florida agriculture, Lake Okeechobee, Big Sugar or humans in general.
Although scientists and researchers have studied the plant-like alga known as Karenia brevis for decades in an effort to pin down the culprit, it still remains an indefinite mystery.
While red tide continues to affect Florida’s gulf coast, with no clear reason why and no end in sight, I can’t help but wonder if there is anything to do to help alleviate red tide.
Believe it or not, residential lawns cover more square footage in the state of Florida than agricultural farms. In 2015, Florida had 47,300 commercial farms and ranches, using only a total of 9.45 million acres according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
While it is easy to point fingers at the agriculture industry, think about the chemicals and fertilizers that are applied in your own lawn.
In a study by the University of South Florida, researchers concluded that the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current – not the water from the Lake Okeechobee releases – was a “determining factor” in red tide:
The study compared data collected on the 2012 red tide season, which was particularly robust, compared to the 2013 season, which was not, the scientists found that the coastal ocean circulation on the West Florida Continental Shelf – highly dependent on the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current – was a determining factor in the greatly differing red tide occurrences. Their paper describing this research was recently published in the journal Continental Shelf Research.
If humans truly are the culprit behind red tide and contribute to the harmful run off found in Florida’s waterways, the end of red tide might be right outside your front door.
Healthy soil is a great filter and has the ability to clean out pollutants before they reach bodies of water. Healthy soil is a living organism with billions of microorganisms, cleaning and eating pollutants.
Most soil in the Florida landscape is either fill dirt without any organic content or has been depleted of nutrients through years of maintenance.
To achieve healthy soil, mimic the forest floor and spread compost or humus on your lawn.
The process is easy, inexpensive and fruitful to the environment, because healthier lawns use about 2/3 less inputs, like chemicals and fertilizers, to maintain the beauty.
Load a wheelbarrow with compost, and distribute the compost in shovelfuls throughout your lawn. Use a rake to spread the compost into an even layer. The compost will work into the soil by itself.
Even if you are new to the world of compost, it can be a relatively simple way to help rejuvenate your soil and keep your plants happy for many years to come!
Until the true, red tide culprit is identified, you can do your part to protect Florida’s sea life, beaches and tourist industry.
Fewer inputs in your lawn, means more money in your pocket, while maintaining a beautiful landscape and cleaner environment; fewer inputs seems like a win for everyone.
The affect you have on the Gulf of Mexico may not be measurable immediately, but awareness and effort will go a long way.