How does a hurricane mess up the microbiome of an offshore area so badly?


Ian hit about a month ago, and west coast Florida is still plagued with red tide and flesh eating bacteria. What happens at a microscopic level for these blooms to happen?

In: 91

The hurricane and storm surge will have caused a great deal of sewage and fertilizer run off. These both feed algae and bacteria.

The ocean has many different layers or strata, and a hurricane plays havoc with so much of this.

In shallow areas there is also a turbidity problem (cloudy water with dirt in it)

The sea surface has a layer of biofilm with bacteria and secreted chemicals that gets messed up.

The littoral (shallow) sea floor has bacterial life from the ocean floor, animals, plants seaweed / kelp and all of this gets disturbed by the strong winds and big waves.

read about [Structure and function of the global ocean microbiome]( to get a bit of the complexity of it.

also [here if you don’t have academic access](

Also, like with Katrina, fuel tanks and chemical storage facilities were compromised, dumping gas and other toxic chemicals into the water, contaminating (if not directly killing off) pretty much all living things it came into contact with. No local fish or shellfish was fit to eat for months.

I hope this is allowed as it isn’t really an answer, but there’s a home experiment you can do with some basic supplies that demonstrates this, sort of: the [Winogradsky column](

Basically, dig up some pond mud, mix with some basic nutrients (calcium, carbon, and sulfur); pack into a glass column and let incubate in light for a month; the microbes from the pond should sort themselves into different strata within the column, supplying specific nutrients up and down the different guilds/layers in the column.

In the end, you are reproducing the eventual re-organization of the ecosystem into a functional and structured community. Pretty cool.