Sargasso Program - Brown Algae Blooms

In search of the New Sargasso Sea

The Sargasso Sea was described by Christopher Columbus during his Atlantic crossing. This sea was discovered as the entire crew of the expedition began to worry about returning to land. The Sargasso Sea is located in Bermuda. However, a new Sargasso Sea is currently emerging farther south in the tropical North Atlantic. This concept is the purpose of the Sargasso Expeditions, which were organized by the University of Aix-Marseille and the IRD (Institut de Recherche et de Développement) with the support of the French Oceanographic Fleet, Monaco Exploration, the Universities of Western Brittany, the West Indies, Pernabouco (Brazil) and Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire).

Initially, the Sargasso Expeditions responded to a major concern of the populations of the French West Indies, who have been repeatedly confronted with brown tides followed by considerable strandings since 2011. These phenomena have catastrophic consequences on benthic fauna and flora, alongside human health and activities. However, these massive strandings in the pelagic Sargasso Sea are widespread around the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. These events can be found in the Lesser and Greater Antilles, along the coasts of Guyana, Brazil and West Africa, and around the Gulf of Mexico. The analysis of satellite images has enabled us to reconstruct their course from the Atlantic Ocean, opposite the mouth of the Amazon, but the precise identification of these Sargasso species is not known, and the causes of the appearance of this "New Sargasso Sea" remain hypothetical.


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