Texas has seen an abundance of red tides within the last few decades and it can be just as ominous as it sounds. Red tide is a harmful algae bloom caused by plant cells that multiply out of control, killing fish in the area and causing potential respiratory infections on land. Researchers are working on a system that would send out red tide warnings to vulnerable populations.
Michael Wetz, an associate professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, says that despite the increase in algae blooms over the past decade, not much is known about where and why red tide appears.
“For the particular species we have over here, it tends to occur at certain times of the year. It primarily blooms from August to maybe October or November, so we believe there’s a water temperature factor that comes into play, it likes the warmer water,” Wetz says. “Aside from that, we don’t know much about what goes in and drives these blooms.”
In terms of the impact on land, Wetz says that Corpus Christi’s fish population is affected by algae blooms, as well as people on the land. Wetz says if a warning system could be developed, premediative measures can be taken for people in the area of the red tide.
“The other thing that these algae do is they produce this toxin that when the waves hit the water, it makes the toxin go into the air and it can cause breathing problems in humans,” Wetz says. “For example, we know with the respiratory problems that red tide causes, it can be particularly harmful to people with asthma. so if we can give those people a heads up that this bloom may be happening or will happen soon, they can take precautions.”
Written by Haley Butler.