If the flooding Hurricane Irma unleashed around Miami-Dade County looked bad onshore, scientists worry the damage to Biscayne Bay could be far more long-lasting, and difficult to fix.
During and after the storm, foul stormwater from the mainland and beaches poured into the bay, carrying pollution from oil-stained streets and leaky sewers to areas already struggling with seagrass die-offs and algae blooms. Ongoing testing by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Miami-Dade County has found chlorophyll, the pigment found in algae, elevated all over the bay.
At the troubled north end, where an ongoing die-off has killed half the beds, it spiked up to 10 times higher, a sign that increasing nutrients from pollution are feeding the seagrass-smothering algae.
Salinity levels have also plunged in places, leaving water nearly fresh. Oxygen concentrations needed to keep fish alive are also woefully low.
“The real question is what happens now,” said Chris Kelbel, an oceanographer with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab. “Does the chlorophyll and algal biomass keep getting high, or does it die back down to normal?”
While it’s not yet clear precisely what’s causing the problems, the likely culprit is the pollution, which over the years has caused the bay to grow less and less healthy, driving away fish and wiping out more than 23-square miles of seagrass meadows.
“You’re reducing the resiliency of the bay to withstand these types of disturbances,” Kelbel said.
The NOAA team and other scientists are in the midst of performing an ecosystem assessment and expect results in the next few weeks.
The bay, along with the mangrove forests, sawgrass marshes, pine rocklands and South Florida’s other natural features evolved to withstand frequent poundings from hurricanes. Churning up bays can help flush them out — after Irma, Florida Bay brimmed with life — while heavy rain and freshwater swelling rivers can revive shorelines. But when all that water is polluted, consequences can be dire.
After hurricanes Katrina and Wilma lashed Florida in 2005, algae started appearing inshore where canals and groundwater flush into the bay. The algae, which block the light seagrass needs, eventually took over the beds in the north central parts of the bay. Then in 2013, acres of turtle grass that once grew in gin clear water in the secluded Tuttle basin began dying, raising concerns that storm run-off from increased flooding, coupled with rising salinity tied to sea rise, was worsening conditions.
Following Irma, monthly sampling by Miami-Dade County’s Division of Environmental Resources Management found the highest levels of chlorophyll in the secluded north basins and off Matheson Hammock, where a major canal drains into the bay. In a statement emailed Friday evening, the agency said it was analyzing the data.
But scientists working with other agencies say conditions are likely troubling.
NOAA has been sampling water monthly off South Florida since the 1990s and after hurricanes typically looks at issues like algae blooms that might worsen. Earlier this month, they modified their sampling to look more closely at Irma’s impacts. In addition to water quality in Biscayne Bay, the assessment will examine seagrass and the condition of juvenile sportfish in the region’s lucrative fishing industry, coral near Cheeca Rocks and water quality in the Gables Waterway where leaking septic tanks have long caused problems.
While results are preliminary, so far they show chlorophyll elevated in all but the central parts of the bay. The level in salinity near shore also dropped, Kelbel said, which is in not unexpected. But in places, water was nearly fresh.
Concentrated oxygen in water, necessary for marine life, was also dangerously low in places, said NOAA research scientist Nicole Millette, who is conducting a long-term study of the bay’s health. In some locations, levels were half of what’s needed for marine life and even lower in other places, she said.
“Basically, there’s low oxygen in the water in certain areas and that is another indication of poor water quality,” she said.
Kelbel said scientists are still working on finding more precisely what’s causing the problems. The seagrass die-off in the Tuttle basin, coupled with the wider spread die-offs, could also make conditions worse since seagrass help soak up the nutrients.
“When you have a die-off, you have a high the potential to have algal blooms and larger algal blooms,” he said.
Stormwater typically contains high amounts of bacteria from leaking sewer and septic tanks. In 2015, after heavy pumping during king tides, water around Miami Beach had live fecal matter above state health limits, that included both human and dog waste. The finding triggered harsh criticism of the city’s pumping and prompted calls for more monitoring. But so far, only one station along the beach has been added, DERM said in Friday’s statement. Other locations are being considered, the statement said.
Florida International University geochemist Henry Briceño, who conducted the sampling and drew sharp criticism from Miami Beach officials, is now testing water provided by Kelbel for signs of waste. He expects to have the results in a couple weeks.
But environmentalists fear the time for fixing the bay may be running out.
“The bay’s a mess. Let’s just call it cesspool, OK?” said Capt. Dan Kipnis. “We already knew we were dying [in Tuttle basin] and the levels were high after the hurricane. You would expect any septic tanks would have flooded out and ended up in canals that ended up being pumped into the bay. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that theory.”
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich
Source : Miami Herald
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RAAF Flight Lieutenant James Pears is the first Australian to fly a P-8A Poseidon after taking the maritime surveillance aircraft on a four-hour flight around US Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
The flight took place on Tuesday afternoon US time, Defence said in a statement.
“The aircraft handles well and performs to expectations; the levels of automation and assistance to the pilot are amazing over that offered by the AP-3C,” FLTLT Pears said.
Pears is one of seven RAAF P-8A Poseidon flightcrew currently in Jacksonville conducting training on the new aircraft with the US Navy ahead of its introduction into the RAAF fleet from 2017.
Australia has ordered the P-8A Poseidon aircraft – which is based on the Boeing 737 – to replace the RAAF’s AP-3C Orions.
Australia’s first P-8A Poseidon is due to be delivered in 2017 and will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia. There are expected to be eight fully operational by 2021.
Defence said the P-8A Poseidon would boost Australia’s ability to monitor its maritime approaches and patrol a vast maritime jurisdiction and search and rescue area representing 11 per cent of the world’s oceans.
A ilha teria grandes chances de virar o país que mais cresce no mundo, com uma população até mais rica que a dos EUA. Não é fantasia: o motor desse milagre econômico, a princípio, já existe. Em outubro de 2008, o país declarou ter descoberto reservas de petróleo equivalentes a 20 bilhões de barris nas águas ao norte do país. Isso dá mais ou menos um quinto da quantidade de óleo da nossa camada pré-sal – mas isso num país com população menor que a da Grande São Paulo (11,5 milhões de habitantes). Claro que essas reservas também poderiam enriquecer a Cuba comunista. Mas, se a ilha abolisse a ditadura e abraçasse o capitalismo, a bonança viria mais rápido e poderia gerar um efeito cascata na economia. Primeiro, porque uma mudança no regime acabaria com o bloqueio comercial do EUA. Sem esse obstáculo, os cubanos teriam como importar tecnologia americana para explorar suas reservas. E mais importante: os EUA importam 10 milhões de barris de petróleo por dia, quase tudo do Oriente Médio. Mas Cuba, lembre-se, fica ali ao lado, a 160 quilômetros de distância da Flórida. Bastaria, então, fazer oleodutos ligando a ilha ao território americano para que os EUA pudessem comprar óleo dos cubanos sem gastar quase nada em transporte. Agora junte os bilhões do petróleo a um mercado imobiliário virgem – Fidel, afinal, confiscou a propriedade privada em 1959 e esses imóveis e terras teriam de voltar a seus antigos donos (ou a seus descendentes). Estima-se que o valor de tudo isso seja US$ 50 bilhões. Mas seria só o começo. Esse monte de imóveis e terras faria nascer uma novo mercado. Assim: a grana do petróleo aumentaria o preço dos imóveis, já que vai ter muita gente com dinheiro para comprá-los. Imóveis valorizados fomentam a construção civil, pois novos prédios vão automaticamente dar mais lucro (é o que aconteceu na China e na Índia). E a construção gera empregos. Com mais empregos, mais consumo. Mais consumo, mais produção. Mais produção, mais empregos…. É a roda da economia girando. E, nesse caso, seria um giro azeitado por uma educação de primeiro mundo, coisa que Cuba já tem.
SUPERINTERESSANTE Maio 2009
O diretor Wanderley Villa Nova, acompanhado de 4 produtores, viaja aos Estados Unidos nos próximos dias para acertar todos os detalhes do encerramento do “Ídolos Kids”.
A final, em julho, com 4 participantes, será apresentada do palco do “American Idol”, no parque temático da Disney, Hollywood Studios, na Florida.i
Flávio Ricco com colaboração de José Carlos Nery
Neste domingo, dia 24, a partir das 13 horas, a Band exibe a primeira prova da temporada 2013 da Fórmula Indy, o GP de St. Petersburg, na Flórida, com Téo José, Felipe Giaffone e Antonio Pétrin.
Lembrando que a etapa brasileira da Indy está marcada para o dia 5 de maio – a SP Indy 300.