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Red tides also known as harmful algal blooms HAB for short are a toxic single celled algae called photoplankton This organism produces a toxin that affects the central nervous system of fish so that they are paralyzed and cant breathe As a result red tide blooms often result in dead fish washing up on beaches From biblical times to present day this killer of marine animals and health risk to humans is affecting rivers and coast lines all over the world Despite how long we have known about red tides there is not much we can do to stop them or determine where it will strike next Certain blooms of algae are termed red tides when the tiny pigmented plants grow to a great abundance The term red tide is misleading in the name Red tides are only occasionally red also appearing as orange brown and even green And they never occur literally as tides which are the rises and falls of the sea New York Times Aug 271997 Some cases of red tides do not show any change in the color of the water at all This makes a red tide very hard to predict or find Red tides often occur when fresh water runoff creates a stratified surface layer above colder nutrient-rich waters heavy rains might have helped the red tides develop by pouring fresh water and nutrients into surrounding sea waters New York Times Sept 19 1996 Fast growing algae quickly strip away nutrients in the upper layer leaving nitrogen and phosphorus only below the interface of the layers called the pycnocline Many swim at speeds of 10 meters a day and some go through vertical migration rising to the top of the water to get sun and then swimming down to the pycnocline to take up nutrients at night Another cause of red tides is from human pollution nutrient runoff from human development the heavy use of fertilizer and
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