Sargassum Gardens

This year’s sargassum invasion has raised loads of questions: Why is it happening? When will it end? Will the beaches be clear by the time tourists arrive for the high season? Today I’ve been wondering how it will impact the coastal vegetation.

Even in areas where the sargassum seems greatly reduced compared to earlier in the year, it’s secretly still there. Even some beaches that look mostly sandy right now actually have alternating layers of sand and decomposing sargassum built up over the summer and fall. Until it is totally decomposed and washed out to sea by the action of the waves, it seems possible that these nutrients might make the beaches could be more hospitable to the salt-tolerant plants that already live near the shore.

If sargassum floats in continuously or in more frequent waves, perhaps beach sand would gradually turn into something more like a sandy soil. Coastal grasses, beach morning glory, sea grapes, palms and mangroves might be able to move down the beach. If something along these lines did happen, what kinds of impact would it have?

For now, as you can see below, there are just a few small plants sprouting up amongst the sargassum, and perhaps they would have been able to grow in these spots even on a regular year. Only time will tell.

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