Over the last six months, a huge mass of organic matter has bloomed over the surface of Turkey’s Marmara Sea, south of Istanbul, boosted by global heating and an overload of pollutants including wastewater and pesticides.
The thick, slimy gray-brown sheets, known as marine mucilage, are made up of dead and living organic material, much of it phytoplankton. These microscopic algae usually help fill the ocean waters with oxygen, but when stressed they can grow out of control and produce a sticky mucus-like substance that can span many square kilometers.
The Marmara Sea, an important ecosystem and waterway between the Aegean and the Black Sea, is home to richly diverse marine life, including mussels, crabs, clams, coral and around 230 species of fish.
As the sludge covers the surface and sinks beneath the waves to blanket the seabed, it sucks up oxygen in the water, creating dead zones that suffocate marine life and threaten the region’s diverse ecosystem.
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