The public is invited to talk with scientists at a series of panel discussions about how red tide has impacted biodiversity.
A group at Florida Gulf Coast University called Conserving Biodiversity has been hosting a series of conferences on various threats to Florida’s ecosystems and this next event, titled Conserving Biodiversity: Red Tide Impacts in the Gulf will focus on the biggest environmental story in Southwest Florida: red tide. Panel discussions and sessions will look at the science, policy and education around the topic.
The conference is this Thursday, March 14, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A group panel will talk about scientific evidence on the impacts of red tide on biodiversity. There will also be extensive Q&A with the audience as speakers anticipate continued public interest in the subject.
Representatives of the biodiversity group, gave a taste of what people can expect to hear at the conference on Gulf Coast Live! early this week.
Dr. Heather Skaza-Acosta, an FGCU assistant professor of environmental education, explained that choosing red tide as the focus of the conference was a clear choice.
“The impact has been very visible in our region, so it’s something everyone has questions about,” Dr. Skaza-Acosta said.
The group’s objective for the conference is two-fold: to get national scientists to focus on Southwest Florida and the Gulf in order to answer the public’s questions, as well as to encourage scientists to conduct research in the area.
“We need to bring them all together to really paint the whole picture of what was the real significance this red tide event was,” Dr. Darren Rumbold, an FGCU professor of marine science said.
Red tide has significant potential effects on Southwest Florida’s biodiversity.
Dr. Rumbold elaborated on hypoxic areas in the gulf, a little known side effect of Karenia Brevis, which is the harmful algal toxin that causes red tide.
A hypoxic area is created by the organic material left after a bloom dies off. That rotting organic matter sinks, and it's comprised of the biomass and dead organisms which stimulate bacterial growth. While that bacteria is decomposing the organic matter, it depletes oxygen levels, increases sulfide levels, and leaves what's commonly known as a "dead zone."
“If [organisms] haven’t died from the brevis toxin, they’ll die from sulfide poisoning,” Dr. Rumbold said.
Dr. Win Everham, an FGCU professor of environmental studies, believes that focus should be on what scientists know to be definitely true.
He says that ways to aid biodiversity include protecting green spaces and managing rainwater and nutrients.
“When we have more genetic pools, communities or ecosystems on our landscape, the end result is more stable, resistant and resilient systems which are imbedded in ecosystems and economies,” Dr. Everham said.
For more information on the “Conserving Biodiversity: Red Tide Impacts in the Gulf” conference, click here.