Posted inlong form / Water

Murky Waters

Amazon-Caribbean Connection

In recent years, large amounts of algae have infested the waters and paradisiacal beaches of the Caribbean. Now, researchers reveal that there is a connection between this disequilibrium and the degradation of the Amazon.

A satellite image of the Amazon River discharging a plume of sediment into the Atlantic Ocean / Credit: Images courtesy of ESA Copernicus / Sentinel-3 / produced by Earthrise

Murky waters is a series of stories produced by InfoAmazonia with support from the Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and Earthrise Media. In four special reports, we show how the pollution in the Amazon rivers has a direct connection with environmental impacts that are being observed in the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the evidences of the relationship between these two problems has been the blooming of huge masses of macroalgae, especially sargassum, in the Caribbean Sea. These brown tides, which already affect the economy of famous tourist destinations like Cancun, are fed by nutrient overload, whether from the dumping of untreated sewage, fertilizers, and erosion caused by mining or deforestation. The reports were published in alliance with the following media: The Times Picuyune (USA), Arestegui Notícias (Mexico) and El Espectador (Colombia).

In this project:

Murky Waters: Amazon Destruction Linked to the Largest Belt of Algae on the Planet

Scientists are examining why banks of sargassum in the Atlantic have proliferated explosively over the past decade, fouling the Caribbean and extending to the coast of Africa. Growing discharges of organic pollutants from the Amazon River are now believed to be a major cause.

Sargassum: Brown Tide Threatens the Caribbean

A decade after the first sargassum blooms were spotted in the South Atlantic, these massive brown mats of macro-algae represent one of the largest ecological threats to the Caribbean, a megadiverse region whose tens of millions of inhabitants heavily depend on tourism and natural resources.

Amazon’s largest city dumps almost everything in the river

In Manaus, the lack of sanitation is widespread. In this third story connecting the health of the Amazon basin with algae blooms in the Caribbean, we show how conditions in the largest city in the region affect both people and the environment.

StoryMap: The pollution of illegal gold mining in the Tapajós River

An exclusive investigation carried out by InfoAmazonia and  Earthrise Media reveals that the sediment staining generated by gold mining in the one basin in Brazil already extends for hundreds of kilometers. The activity has skyrocketed by 70% in the last five years.


Gustavo Faleiros

general coordination and editing

James Fahn


Aldem Bourscheit


Sara Schonhandt


Steffanie Schmidt


Bruno Kelly


Alejandro Castro


Paola Chiamonte


Juliana Mori

image editing, visualizations and page design

Edward Boyda

satellite imagery analysis

Jerusa Rodrigues

portuguese translation

Caleb Kruse

satellite imagery analysis

Lucy Calderón

english translation

Tony Gross

english translation