SCTLD antibiotic paste application. Photo © Nova Southeastern University
There are over 300 species of Sargassum algae, ref a group of marine brown algae. However, there are generally two types of Sargassum (floating and non-floating) that vary in their impact to reefs and management strategies needed to address them.

Non-floating Sargassum species are a threat to coral reef ecosystems when they become overabundant on a degraded reef, inhibiting the settlement and growth of coral recruits and reducing the capacity of a reef to recover after disturbances. ref

Sargassum close up Jeff Yonover

Close up on Sargassum fleshy macro-algae strands. Photo © Jeff Yonover

Management strategies include the active removal of Sargassum algae either by hand or using a suction device. However, the efficacy and long-term effects of these methods are largely unknown. ref Current recommendations include: ref

  • Coupling removal with effective protection and potential reintroduction of herbivores
  • Removing the holdfast (root) of the Sargassum algae
  • Conducting removal in the early growing season of the Sargassum
  • Incorporating the effect of seasonality and climate change in the Sargassum removal plan

Floating Sargassum species form thick mats at the water’s surface. While naturally present in open waters of the Northern Atlantic, they have devastating ecological and economic impacts when they drift and smother shallow coral reef areas.

Overabundance of Sargassum on beaches Jennifer Adler

In addition to ecological impacts, an overabundance of Sargassum on beaches can be detrimental to the tourism industry. Photo © Jennifer Adler

Management strategies include: ref

  • Beach clean-ups either by hand or with machinery
  • Barrier nets to collect the algae offshore and prevent algae from collecting on beaches
Sargassum clean up tractor Mexico The Nature Conservancy

Removal of Sargassum by tractor in the Caribbean. Photo © The Nature Conservancy

Industries may be able to commercialize collected Sargassum as it can be used as fertilizer, pharmaceuticals, bioplastic production, and even in some Asian inspired cuisine. ref

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