"It’s basically a flashing red light that the ecology of this area is being gravely distressed."
A pond in Hawaii has turned an alarmingly bright shade of pink, alarming local residents.
As CNN reports, the coastal salt marsh at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge has been bright pink for at least two weeks now, an apparent result of an extreme drought causing water levels to drop, consequently sending the salinity of the water to twice that of the ocean.
"I just got a report from somebody that was walking on the beach, and they called me up like, 'There's something weird going on over here,'" Bret Wolfe, the refuge manager, told the Associated Press.
According to a notice by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the high salt contents likely allowed a type of single-celled organism called halobacteria, which produces the pink color, to flourish.
While it may look like a fantasy world come to life, the color change has environmental scientists deeply worried for the local ecosystem.
"It’s basically a flashing red light that the ecology of this area is being gravely distressed," Shiladitya DasSarma, a microbiology professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the New York Times.
Officials in Hawaii are trying to understand what is causing a coastal pond on Maui to turn pink. There are some indications that drought may be to blame. U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge have been monitoring the water since Oct. 30. pic.twitter.com/3kHOT8xtew
— The Associated Press (@AP) November 10, 2023
Fortunately, the salinity-loving organisms, which also thrive in other areas like the Great Salt Lake in Utah and the Dead Sea, don't appear to be toxic. The University of Hawaii is now investigating the situation and trying to pin down the "exact strain of the halobacteria," per the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"As a precautionary measure, we recommend that people keep a safe distance and not enter the water, don’t consume any fish from the water, and ensure that pets don’t drink the water," the notice reads.
Much of Maui has been suffering from a severe drought. Per the US Drought Monitor, much of the island is experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions.
Worse yet, scientists suspect the situation will only get worse as global temperatures rise due to climate change. Even Hawaii, with its humid coastal landscapes and rainforests, can fall victim to these changes.
"This has been seen more commonly around the world, but one doesn’t think of Hawaii — it’s not an arid part of the world," DasSarma told the NYT.
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