Marine Science Faculty Publications

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Macroalgae, Nitrogen, Phosphate mining, Piney Point, Seagrass, Tampa Bay

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Legacy mining facilities pose significant risks to aquatic resources. From March 30th to April 9th, 2021, 814 million liters of phosphate mining wastewater and marine dredge water from the Piney Point facility were released into lower Tampa Bay (Florida, USA). This resulted in an estimated addition of 186 metric tons of total nitrogen, exceeding typical annual external nitrogen load estimates to lower Tampa Bay in a matter of days. An initial phytoplankton bloom (non-harmful diatoms) was first observed in April. Filamentous cyanobacteria blooms (Dapis spp.) peaked in June, followed by a bloom of the red tide organism Karenia brevis. Reported fish kills tracked K. brevis concentrations, prompting cleanup of over 1600 metric tons of dead fish. Seagrasses had minimal changes over the study period. By comparing these results to baseline environmental monitoring data, we demonstrate adverse water quality changes in response to abnormally high and rapidly delivered nitrogen loads.

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Marine Pollution Bulletin, v. 178, article 113598.