PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE, Texas – Tons of sargassum have washed up on Texas beaches recently and while it’s not pretty to look at, it’s an important component of beach health.
“You may have noticed our beaches aren’t exactly beachy,” Padre Island National Seashore officials said.
Sargassum is a brown, macroalgae that spends its entire lifecycle afloat. When out at sea, sargassum provides habitat, food, protection, and breeding grounds for hundreds of diverse marine species, such as sea turtles, snails, crabs, fish, and shrimp, PINS officials said in a recent Facebook post.
However, once it’s on shore, the seaweed breaks down and helps stabilize the shoreline by adding nutrients to coastal soils, which helps promote the growth of dune plants.
PINS officials also noted that shorebirds like ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, and plovers use the decomposing seaweed to find food like invertebrates and other stranded sargassum inhabitants
Sargassum isn’t always so welcomed.
KSAT reported on a seaweed bloom spanning 5,000 miles that is being pushed toward the Gulf of Mexico in March. The bloom is causing hundreds of tons of seaweed to wash up on beaches across the Caribbean and the Gulf.
The thick blanket of sargassum is about twice the width of the United States, according to SargassumMonitoring.com.
This enormous mat of seaweed is mostly harmless in open water but when pushed toward beaches it can choke corals, wreak havoc on coastal ecosystems and diminish water and air quality as it rots. Sargassum Monitoring reported that the seaweed blob can be seen from space and is one of the largest on record.
PINS officials said the sargassum in the photo above, which washed up earlier this month, is already starting to dry out and blow into the dunes.
If you still head to the beach in the near future, keep an eye out for those mysterious WWII-era objects people have found along the coast.