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NCCOS Project

Estimating Economic Losses and Impacts of Florida Red Tide

This project began in March 2020 and will end in August 2022

This project, funded by NCCOS through the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, will examine the economic impacts of Karenia brevis events across 80 different economic sectors, based on varied bloom occurrence and intensity. Understanding the true costs of harmful algal blooms is key to developing effective response and adaptation strategies that meet the needs of impacted communities in Florida and around the country.

Why We Care
The true costs of harmful algae blooms (HABs) and the mechanics that determine their devastating socioeconomic impacts are for the most part unknown. Florida’s 2017–2019 Karenia brevis bloom is a historical case study of the ever-growing threats to coastal welfare, but could also be an early indicator of possible adaptation strategies.

The state of Florida has recently experienced several HABs, most notably outbreaks of red tide (Karenia brevis) and cyanobacteria (Microcystis spp., and Anabaena spp.), with the most recent Karenia brevis blooms lasting from October 2017 through February 2019. HABs have become a widespread environmental, economic, and public health problem along numerous waterfront communities in Florida, severely affecting water quality and having deleterious impacts on human health as well as local and regional economies.

While Florida coastal communities have proven resilient to HABs in the past, these latest blooms appear to be larger, last longer, and have more devastating impacts than previous events. In addition, HABs have become more frequent in recent years and threaten to become a chronic issue for many communities in Florida. Not surprisingly, the spread of these blooms has affected the tourism industry in the state, which has a substantial impact on Florida’s economy, since 118.5 million people who visit Florida each year provide an infusion of $111.7 billion to the state’s economy.

What We Are Doing
The primary objective is to identify the direct, indirect, and induced socioeconomic impacts caused by the 2017–2019 Karenia brevis bloom in Florida. However, the data set we compile will also allow identification of direct economic impacts (losses in revenues) from Karenia brevis blooms in Florida occurring between 1995 to the present at the county level. The county-level modeling results of direct economic impact will be used to estimate state-level economic impacts of the 2017–2019 Karenia brevis blooms (including indirect and induced impacts) through input-output modeling. These results will be analyzed in conjunction with the changing communication patterns of different sectors over time, ultimately identifying pathways for education and awareness of Karenia brevis HAB events that ameliorate and do not magnify economic losses. In short, by coupling economic and anthropological methods, this approach will generate a transferable, predictive, and actionable pathway to better understand and eventually break the cycle of “bloom and bust.”

Dr. Sergio Alvarez (University of Central Florida) leads this project, with Dr. Heather O’Leary (University of South Florida) as co-investigator. The project is funded through the NCCOS/GCOOS Florida socioeconomic award.

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