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    « Dolphins Choke, Win | Main | Another One of the World's Shortest Books »

    December 18, 2007

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    Salt fan

    I know what they are. Those are salt ponds. The colors are created by algae, minerals, micro-organisms and brine shrimp. Water is drawn out of the ponds through natural evaporation, and during the five years it takes for the bay water to mature into salt brine, it is pumped from one evaporation pond to another. In the final stages, when the brine is fully saturated, the remaining water is pumped from the pond and a bed of salt 5 to 8 inches thick is ready for harvest.

    The palette of colors that makes the salt ponds so beautiful is created by a complex ecosystem. The colors range from pale green through deep coral pink to bright red. The color indicates the salinity of the ponds. Micro-organisms change their hues as the salinity of the pond increases. In low to mid-salinity ponds, green algae is predominant, giving the water a deep greenish cast. As the salinity continues to build up, an algae called Dunaliella shifts the color to a lighter shade of green. In middle to high salinity ponds, the Dunaliella produces a red pigment. Millions of tiny brine shrimp lend an orange cast to the water in mid-salinity ponds. Salt loving bacteria such as Stichococcus also contribute red tints to high salinity brine.

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