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9 Jul 2020
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Sanibel OutdoorsSanibel WildlifeNews

Around the end of June, the Gulf Coast (along with much of the Southeastern US) experienced one of the largest plumes of Saharan dust on record.  As the name suggests, the dust originates as sandstorms in the Sahara desert of central and west Africa, carried high into the atmosphere and over the Atlantic Ocean.  While this happens *every* summer, this plume is one of the largest on record and is, as of this writing, still hovering over parts of the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean.  You might have seen it bring spectacular sunrises and sunsets recently, but also some really hot summer days!

The dust causes hazy skies and high temperatures to the area, resulting in heat indices of well over 100 degrees!  However, it’s also beneficial as it helps prevent storms from developing into tropical storms and hurricanes (something Florida does NOT need this year…2020 has done enough to us already). 

And would you believe that it provides nutrients? Not for humans directly, but for a type of bacterium called Trichodesmium (also called “sea sawdust,” which looks like either sawdust or an oil slick on the water’s surface).  The dust brings iron to this bacteria and allows it to draw nitrogen and convert it into a nutrient source for phytoplankton.  From there it helps support the rest of the food chain in marine life.

Speaking of marine life, Sea Turtle nesting season is in full swing as the first wave (or “boil”) of hatchings is taking place.  Despite the unusual amount of rainfall associated with Tropical Storm Cristobal in June, more than 3,000 baby turtles hatched and made their way into the Gulf of Mexico.  The number of nests on the islands (Sanibel and Captiva) is nearly 750, more than last year.

Sanibel Holiday provides all of our guests with information on how they can enjoy their stay while helping protect sea turtles with a few simple precautions (such as simply making sure shades facing the beach are drawn at night or not leaving nothing but footprints on the beach).  We’d like to thank the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), whose articles provided valuable information for this article.  For more information about SCCF and their efforts to protect the environment, please go to www.sccf.org…then Book Direct and Save with Sanibel Holiday to see these natural wonders in person.