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Water Programs

Water Programs

HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS IN FLORIDA

Algal blooms are found on waterways throughout Florida. That includes Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatche estuaries, the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Johns River, Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, Apalachicola Bay, and others. As these blooms grow,  they negatively impact the environment, public health, and the economy of nearby communities. In short, they become "harmful algal blooms" (HAB).

Note: Though 'algae' and 'algal' are often used interchangeably in news reports and casual conversation, 'algal' is the preferred scientific label to describe a bloom. For that reason, information on this website features the term 'algal.'


Causes of Harmful Algal Blooms

alligator snout and eyes rise above murky water topped with thin layer of algae

Scientists believe large algal blooms in Florida started from natural causes, but have been made worse by human impact on the environment. This has occurred primarily through addition to the land of excess nutrients (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus). Another impact is land-use decisions that permit nutrients to more quickly reach inland and coastal waters.

Climate change also plays a role. For instance, rising water temperatures and sea levels have enabled faster-growing algae. In addition, saltwater intrusion encourages saltwater blooms to move closer to shore.

Potential Solutions

Knowing the dangers of HAB is just the beginning. To reverse current spread (and prevent future blooms), it's necessary to engage in research, collaboration, and daily vigilance. Answering that call, UF/IFAS leadership has assembled a core team of both research and extension faculty who work to uncover comprehensive data regarding algae species, key toxins, and human exposure. These professionals work in collaboration with state-wide organizations and individuals.

In addition, UF/IFAS Extension engages the public through on-site information and discussion forums in every Florida county. Meanwhile, the University of Florida teams with individuals and organizations throughout the state. That includes water management districts, state and federal agencies, local governments, agricultural commodity groups, private industry, and Florida residents.

Spotlight on Algal Blooms

Stay up-to-date with the latest research findings from UF/IFAS experts.


Contributing UF/IFAS departments and programs include Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Soil and Water Sciences, Food and Resource Economics, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Family, Youth, and Consumer Sciences. Additional content is provided by Florida Sea Grant, the UF Water Institute, the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute.