In a recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico I heard about sargazo. As Gulf Coast neighbors, we see sargazo in Galveston, Texas so it was something I had seen before. The key is that the quantities of sargazo on the white sandy beaches in Quintana Roo is a growing problem.
Sargazo is a brown algae with little bead-like bladders. It floats in tropical waters and looks greenish-yellowish with a slight bit of brown. Sometimes it sinks to the bottom too. When it comes to the surface and floats to the shore with the current it feels uncomfortable to walk on. When it dries and acquires its deep rust coloring, not only does it poke your feet but it also smells as it decays. Not good for tourists who walk barefoot.
More and more sargazo is being seen coming to the shores. Why is that?
- Climate change: The water is increasing in temperature. Warmer water means a more ideal environment sargazo. I enjoyed the warm water but the warmer water is affecting the ecosystem.
- Mangroves: Mangroves are tropical evergreens that tolerate salt-water. They have long tubular roots that are exposed and sink into the water. These trees and shrubs have multiple functions in the ecosystem. They anchor the beach thus prevent erosion, they protect the coast from the devastation of hurricanes, and they also help purify the water. The loss of mangroves is opening the doors to more sargazo coming onto the naked beach.
- Development: By developing more beaches to create room for new buildings and more sandy beaches, more mangroves are being removed from pristine coasts to create open beaches. These open beaches are also more exposed to erosion and thus, loss of coastline. The removal of mangroves and other vegetation creates a loss of housing, food sources and protection to many other creatures that benefit the balance of the ecosystem.
- Pesticides: The vicious circle of pesticide use is also at play. Pesticides that pollute the environment, kill more members of the ecosystem and cause greater risk to every creature who is part of the ecosystem, including humans.
These are only four reasons I was told are throwing this beautiful area off balance. There may be others we are not aware of. When nature is thrown off balance it tends to adjust itself. Perhaps not in our lifetime or to conditions that are to our liking or benefit but it does find its balance. If we can respect and sustain the ecosystem and work with nature as it is today, we are sustaining our own life and enjoyment in and of the current ecosystem.
What do you think?