The Amy H Remley Foundation  
   
     
 

Conservation

Context

This section must always be regarded as a work in progress. The context for this is contained in the Education section:

Scientific knowledge is meaningless unless it is widely disseminated and becomes common knowledge among the public. The public needs to become aware in order to become involved in restoration activity. Man has upset the natural balance of the ecosystem and must be engaged in restoring the balance. Sustainable use of water resources cannot be achieved unless resource users agree on basic principles in resource stability and availability - in the past, in the present and in the future, with due protection and conservation measures collectively introduced.

It is futile to make judgments on the sustainability of water resources without scientific knowledge in regard to possible natural and anthropogenic variances. A scientifically well-informed decision is important, not because the decision will always be correct, but, because the decision can be assessed scientifically and updated to reflect new scientific findings over time. That is the true worth of science, and a process incorporated in Adaptive Management.

Over 30 years ago, Edward S. Deevey, Jr., delivered a statement to the National Water Commission entitled “In Defense of Mud.” Deevey, a distinguished limnologist (one who studies inland waters) argued that mudThe habitat for essential micro-organisms, is as important as water to the health of this planet. Edward S Deevey Jr, as the habitatThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives. of essential microorganismsExtremely small organism that can only be seen using a microscope., is as important as water to the health of this planet.

Mud is not all the same, and different kinds of microorganismsExtremely small organism that can only be seen using a microscope. require different kinds of muddy water. By conserving different kinds of mud, we conserve different, yet essential microorganisms, as well as different types of water resources. Lakes, swamps, marshes and estuariesThe wide lower course of a river where the tide flows in, causing fresh and salt water to mix. all have different kinds of mud and associated microorganisms.

Deevey expressed his concerns with, "a common yet dangerous misapprehension: the idea that balanced living systems consist of animals plus plants. As long as the sun shines and the plants are green, it seems to follow that animals and people have nothing to worry about. The truth, of course, is that no living system is ever balanced without microbes" (1970). Microorganisms that live only in mud produce hydrogenase, a catalyst for recycling natural materials. Hydrogenase breaks down nitrogen and sulfur in dead matter to forms that can be used by plants to grow new tissueA group of similar cells that are organized into a structure with a specific purpose.. These microorganisms also help reduce pollution by breaking down harmful compoundA compound is the atoms of different elements joined together. and contributing oxygen to the atmosphere. Hydrogenase producing microorganisms are found in the mud of lakes, swamps, marshes and estuaries.

Deevey concluded that the most valuable inhabitants of wetlands are sulfate-reducing bacteriaSimple single celled prokaryotic organisms. Many different species of bacteria exist. Some species of bacteria can be pathogenic causing disease in larger more complex organisms. Many species of bacteria play a major role in the cycling of nutrients in ecosystems through aerobic and anaerobic decomposition. Finally, some species form symbiotic relationships with more complex organisms and help these life forms survive in the environment by fixing atmospheric nitrogen.. Destruction of wetlands has reduced these bacteriaSimple single celled prokaryotic organisms. Many different species of bacteria exist. Some species of bacteria can be pathogenic causing disease in larger more complex organisms. Many species of bacteria play a major role in the cycling of nutrients in ecosystems through aerobic and anaerobic decomposition. Finally, some species form symbiotic relationships with more complex organisms and help these life forms survive in the environment by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. and their habitatThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives. by half, but the amount of airborne sulfur they need to process has more than doubled as a result of industrial pollution. “To the last generation of conservationists, the haunts of coot and heron seemed to need no reasoned defense from anybody. Henceforth, I believe, the ‘new conservation’ can take a more worldly stand. Its basis is that hydrogenase, like water and oxygen, is no longer a ‘free good’, but a commodity more precious than we know” (1970).

Florida once had extensive and highly productive ecosystemsa community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live., many of which were altered and degraded by urban and agricultural development. Much of the activity resulted from a lack of knowledge concerning how ecosystemsa community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live. function, how they are interrelated and the ways in which they help sustain people. There is currently a need to restore the function and integrity of what remains.

We cannot return to what used to be, but we can restore, protect and more effectively manage what we have. Sound science needs to be the foundation, and communication, education and public involvement, the cornerstones.

Many things can be taken apart, but some, such as biological systems, are very difficult to put back together again. On the surface, a biological system may look like it’s “fixed”, but it might not work. Some parts may be missing, some may be forgotten or some may not be put back in the proper relationship to other parts. Complexity and diversity tend to be hallmarks of unaltered systems, and this makes restoration very difficult. Like a broken eggshell, a fragmented and altered ecosystema community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live. that is put back together may never be as strong and resilient as the original. In spite of these challenges, throughout Florida, ecosystemsa community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live. are being “put back together”.

Threats to Florida's Springs

We can but reflect upon the threats to a most cherished resource of North Florida - fresh water springs - to exemplify need for concern. Too many of us fail to appreciate just how much we do things which adversely impact the things we treasure most. Sometimes it is because we do not think what we do as an individual could possibly affect issues which are simply beyond our understanding. Consider the following issues, for example:

Landscaping and Lawn Care

How can what we do to our tiny yard possibly have any impact? The collective impact on water qualityA term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for a particular purpose. of several million yards is considerable indeed. Our choice of grass, whether we over dose with chemical fertilizers, or herbicides to control weeds, has a significant impact on both the quality and quantity of water in the aquifer. When we thus blindly contribute to high levels of nitratesForm of nitrogen commonly found in the soil and used by plants for building amino acids, DNA and proteins. It is commonly produced by the chemical modification of nitrite by specialized bacteria. Chemical formula for nitrate is NO3-. in the aquifer, our source of drinking water, these nitrates in the water contribute to nuisance algae growth affecting health and can endanger fragile plants and wildlife speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun. in the springs. Using non-native plants in our yards also require daily watering and frequent applications of chemical pesticidesA chemical that kills, controls, drives away, or modifies the behavior of pests. to keep them healthy and disease-free. Nearly fifty percent of all water withdrawn for public supply is used solely to water residential lawns and landscaping.

Sprawl and Development

Rarely do we think ourselves responsible for sprawl and development. We just live and enjoy where we live. Others cause sprawl and so called development. Florida's rapid increase in population since 1950 has led to dramatic changes in land use, transforming rural areas that were once dominated by forests and native grasslands into residential developments, shopping centers, and industrial parks. The increase in pavement, roads, and other imperviousNot allowing fluid to pass through surfaces associated with development prevents rainwater from percolating into the aquifer and increases runoffThe topographic flow of water from precipitation to stream channels located at lower elevations. Occurs when the infiltration capacity of an area's soil has been exceeded. It also refers to the water leaving an area of drainage. Also called overland flow. of harmful pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances. . Development and increased groundwaterWater in the ground. Water that occupies the pore spaces found in some types of bedrock. demand can result in diminished water flow at the springs and harm to sensitive plants and animals. The negative downstream impact can also be quite significant for rivers like the Crystal and Chassahowiska Rivers that are supported by the springs' flow.

Runoff and Stormwater

Stormwater run-off and pollution represents one of the most serious threats to the health of Florida's groundwater and springs, which should be taken care of corporately by the communities we live in. As voters and the concerned we have a duty to add to the strength of the corporate voice to ensure our city and county officials do take that care. As stormwater flows off of highways, county roads, parking lots, and residential developments, it carries with it heavy metalsMercury, lead, cadmium and nickel-highly toxic in very small quantities; can be fatal and bioaccumulate in environment-have cumulative effects in humans., petroleum by-products, pet wastes, and pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances. . Stormwater primarily affects surface waters, however some of these contaminantsSomething that contaminates. reach the aquifer. Although scientists are still collecting data, these contaminantsSomething that contaminates. stress native plants and animals, and endanger endemic underwater invertebrates that exist nowhere else in the world. Stormwater that is directed into karstAn area of irregular limestone rock formations in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns.
Such terrain is created when ground-water dissolves the limestone.
features like sinkholes without any form of pretreatment can have an even greater direct impact on groundwaterWater in the ground. Water that occupies the pore spaces found in some types of bedrock. quality and the springs.

Water Consumption and Overuse

How easy it is for us to fall into the fool's belief that Florida's water supply is unending when we are caught in a summer storm. Florida's abundance of aquatic environments does not mean that we have water to spare. Every day, over four billion gallons of groundwater are consumed to satisfy the demands of agriculture, industry, power plants, development, and municipal and public water supplies, and as a result, we are depleting our natural, underground water resources faster than they can be replenished. Excess groundwater use does not simply mean we may one day run out of water, however. It also has a direct, negative impact on the biological communities of the springs as well as possibly leading to the collapse of the underground geologic structures and the formation of more sinkholes.

Although creative new ways of conserving water are being instituted , at many springs water flow levels have been dramatically reduced. For example, flow at Blue Spring in Volusia County, has decreased significantly thereby reducing critical habitatThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives. for more than 100 manatees that visit the spring each winter. Kissengen Spring in Polk County was once a popular swimming area and place for recreation. By the 1950s, pumping of water in the spring recharge area caused the spring to dry up.

Illegal Dumping

Being dumb headed can do great harm. Throughout the state sinkholes have been targets for illegal dumping for many years. Yet, sinkholes don't make trash go away. Instead, dangerous refuse such as lead-acid batteries, oil filters, household chemicals, and construction materials are introduced directly into the aquifer, our water supply and springs. Illegal dumping into sinkholes can also have a negative impact on plants and animals in the springs. Sinkholes located in urban areas or close to roads and parking lots are particularly vulnerable to illegal dumping. In 1998, volunteers removed more than a one and a half tons of debris from Columbia County's Rose Sink alone.

Row Crop Agriculture

Even striving for efficiency and increased profits can have a negative effect. Row-crop agriculture is a $5.5 billion dollar business in Florida and yet impairs both quality and quantity of Florida's groundwaterWater in the ground. Water that occupies the pore spaces found in some types of bedrock.. Every year, millions of tons of fertilizers and pesticidesA chemical that kills, controls, drives away, or modifies the behavior of pests. are applied to fields to improve crop yields, kill insects and prevent disease. Unfortunately, excess quantities of these pesticides and fertilizers leach directly underground or enter the aquifer through sinkholes and surface rivers. Like chemicals used in residential landscaping, agricultural fertilizers and pesticides can pollute our drinking water and harm sensitive biological communities at the springs. Row-crop agriculture is also Florida's second largest consumer of groundwater, accounting for significant percentage of the more than 1.5 billion gallons withdrawn from the aquifer for agriculture each day. Thinking outside the box should reduce the quantity of agricultural chemicals applied and add to the bottom line.

Livestock Farming

Florida's dairy and livestock industry is one of the largest in the country, occupying over 700,000 acres of land. However, livestock farms can have a significant impact on both the quality and quantity of the water stored in Florida's aquifer. Each year, over 400,000 tons of animal wastes enter our groundwater through surface streams, sinkholes, and through direct infiltration into the soil. Weeks, months, and sometimes even years later, these contaminantsSomething that contaminates. end up in our drinking water and in the springs themselves where they can harm sensitive underwater plant and invertebrate speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun.. Crops like sorghum and corn grown to feed Florida's livestock also require fertilizers and pesticidesA chemical that kills, controls, drives away, or modifies the behavior of pests. and water withdrawalsThe removal of water from some type of source, like groundwater, for some use by humans. The water is subsequently returned some period of time later after its is used. The quality of the returned water may not be the same as when it was originally removed. Compare with water consumption. for irrigation.

Golf Courses

For a golfer this is difficult to write. Over fifteen hundred golf courses exist in Florida, more than any other state in the country, and the number continues to grow each year. Like other conversion of natural open spaces, golf courses can also harm Florida's aquifers, altering traditional, rural land uses within spring recharge basins as well as increasing nutrient loads and water withdrawals. Fairways, tees, and greens require specialized varieties of grass, like Bermuda grass, that are regularly fertilized. If applied improperly, fertilizers can leach past the root systems and soil, and eventually infiltrate the aquifer. In many areas of Florida, golf courses are also associated with residential "country club" communities that introduce additional threats to the springs by increasing residential landscaping, household water use, and direct recreational impacts.

Recreational Impacts

Springs recreation and attractions are a multi-million dollar industry in north Florida. In 1999 alone, more than two million people visited the twelve state parks named for springs, contributing over $7 million in revenue. Yet, due to their immense popularity as locations for camping, swimming, tubing, diving, and canoeing, some springs are being "loved to death". During the peak summer months, Ichetucknee Springs State Park's daily limit of 750 tubers on the upper river can be reached within an hour after the park opens. Such concentrated human use can have a direct impact on the springs as well as the animals and plants that live there. Tubers and swimmers can unknowingly trample native vegetation and increase turbidity or cloudiness of water, while on the edges of the springs and spring runs uncontrolledNot under control, discipline, or governance foot traffic can increase bank erosionTo wear away by the action of water, wind, or glacial ice. Removal of vegetation and trees can increase erosion of topsoil.. Trash and other human refuse left behind at the springs can also introduce pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances. into the water and harm native wildlife such as turtles and manatees which might mistake plastic bags and wrappers for food.

Invasive Species

Invasive plant speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun. like hydrilla and water lettuce are choking many springs and spring runs. Hydrilla is a major problem in some springs growing rapidly and replacing native eelgrassA marine plant with long ribbon-like leaves. [Zostera marina.], or, a submerged aquatic plant with narrow, grass-like leaves. [Genus Valisneria.] and eliminating the open areas of the spring. Spirogyra and Lyngbya, native but really troublesome algae, grow quickly in response to the elevated nitrateForm of nitrogen commonly found in the soil and used by plants for building amino acids, DNA and proteins. It is commonly produced by the chemical modification of nitrite by specialized bacteria. Chemical formula for nitrate is NO3-. and phosphorous levels, forming mats that smother the native aquatic vegetation on the spring floor. Control of these invasive species requires labor-intensive manual removal in the absence of viable technologies to control the nutrient loadings.

News and Views
News Items

November 30, 2013
On environment, shortsightedness costs Florida big.
Scott Maxwell, Taking Names.
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October 9, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2013.
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September 25, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
The Potential for Fuel Cell Prime Power in Japan.
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August 1, 2013
Duke Energy to cancel proposed Levy County nuclear plant.
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May 22, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
Electrolysers for Renewable Energy Efficiency.
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March 13, 2013
Beyond Electricity: Using Renewables Effectively.
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September 24, 2012
Sewer Systems Legal Filing.
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February 1, 2012
Fuel Cell Today update.
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January 13, 2012
Sewer Agenda.
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December 23, 2011
Scientist: Water account overdrawn.
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Novemver 14, 2011
Submission to the Citrus County Commissioner, 14 November, 2011.
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