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Caloosahatchee River discharges and the duration of red tide events

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From Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director Dave Tomasko:

Earlier this week, I received notification that a manuscript my co-authors and I produced was accepted for publication in the upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal “Florida Scientist”. The title of the paper is “An evaluation of the relationships between the duration of red tide (Karenia brevis) blooms and watershed nitrogen loads in Southwest Florida (USA)”. My four co-authors include Lenny Landau and Steve Suau (both highly talented and creative local engineers), Dr. Miles Medina (a brilliant statistician) and Jennifer Hecker, the Director of the Coastal and Heartland Estuary Program.

A few years ago, there was a bit more controversy regarding what role – if any – humans have on red tides. While that may have been an appropriate view a few years ago, anyone who currently thinks that humans don’t play a role in red tide events either isn’t familiar with recent studies or is just being stubborn for some reason. Ten or twenty years ago, it was appropriate to be skeptical of such a link, but not over the past few years.

For example, the SBEP’s Technical Library includes this paper, which showed a relationship between the intensification of red tide events and Caloosahatchee River loads, as well as evidence that a substantial amount of nitrogen loads out of the Caloosahatchee can be traced back to nitrogen loads coming into Lake O from the north.

Also in our technical library is this paper, which showed a link between the red tide event in middle Tampa Bay in 2021 and nitrogen loads associated with the releases from the Piney Point facility back in 2021.

So what was unusual about this recent study? Well, we wanted to see if we could develop a robust, predictable and quantifiable relationship between human activities and the duration of red tide events.