How does sargassum grow and die in the open oceans?

Improvements in remote sensing analysis of sargassum events, and field-based measurements of sargassum influxes are showing the distribution of sargassum around the tropical Atlantic. Yet key questions about sargassum remain unknown which make longer term prediction of sargassum events challenging. For example, little is known about the life cycle of sargassum in the open ocean, e.g. how quickly does sargassum grow, and, what does the process look like of sargassum decomposition? To address these, and other questions related to sargassum growth and mortality questions, SARTRAC is funding a small offshore project led by Professor Hazel Oxenford (CERMES, University of the West Indies at Cave Hill).

The project started in August 2021, and an offshore mooring has been selected and prepared. Construction of nine growth cages off the coast of Barbados and testing of pilot growth/mortality cages in situ has started (see Image 1).

Image 1: growth cages offshore, to assess sargassum growth and mortality
Image 2: Growth cages offshore – view from above

Wet weights of sargassum replicates will be taken every few days for one month. We are looking forward to preliminary results in September 2021.

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