Preserving, conserving, and restoring the native plants and native plant communities of Florida.



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Friday, October 15, 2010

We all live in a watershed! 10/15/2010 Blog Action Day topic is Water


North-central Florida has been blessed with fantastic and seemingly endless crystal-clear springs. The Floridan aquifer is close to the surface in this area and water pressure caused by water percolating into the limestone formations already filled with water flows to the surface. Some springs  discharge more than 65 million gallons of water per day.  Several state parks have been located to include these springs.
Swimming with anhingas in Rainbow River

The springs support many types of wildlife: fish, water birds, snakes, turtles, and the placid manatees.


This manatee winters in Homosassa Springs

 The anhingas, aka snake birds, are particularly fun to watch as they spear their fishy prey with their beaks underwater and then come to the surface where they expertly flip the fish from their beaks into their gullets. You can see the lump in their long necks as the fish slide down. 

See DEP's website www.floridasprings.org/ for more information, diagrams, and educational materials on Florida's fantastic springs.


Florida's picturesque rivers have captivated tourists and residents alike with their wonderful vistas of fantastic flora and fauna. Rivers occur throughout the state and each region's climate makes each river unique.

Sunrise over the St. Johns River
An American egret hunts for breakfast
on Appalachacola River.

For centuries Florida was not well developed because of its swamps. While early settlers found them hostile, our marvelous swamps provide hiding places for animals and habitat for rare plant species including the famous ghost orchid.  See Ghost Orchid Controversy.

Mangrove swamps provide critical habitat for fish, invertebrates, birds, and mammals.
The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is one of three mangroves, but only one the one with stilts for roots. 
We featured mangroves in a  this posting.

The Corkscrew Swamp near Naples houses a vast and fascinating collection of interesting plants and animals.

Here's another example of the critical role mangroves play. The cold snap that occurred in January this year caused the water temperatures to drop so low that massive fish kills took place. Snook, a favorite of fisherman, were killed in especially high numbers. The species is adapted to events like this, however, and the normal response is an especially high spawn in the spring so that the population can regain stability. But because we have lost so much of our mangrove shoreline, the high spawn numbers will not be fruitful. The baby snook need the protection of mangrove roots. The mangroves provide a virtual nursery for them. Without the mangrove nursery areas, the spawn cannot survive in any significant numbers. Here's a link to an interesting site supported by a sporting group, fly fisherman. Good discussion and illustration of mangrove importance.

~ ~ ~
From central Florida southward, most waterways feed the vast The Everglades,
which Marjorie Stoneman Douglas made famous with her book, "The River of Grass."


The saw grass prairie seems to go on forever...

Sometimes fishing can be hazardous to a bird's well-being.
~ ~ ~

Once we get to south Florida, we have amazing coral reefs just off of our shorelines.  Some are protected at the John Pennekamp State Park, America's first undersea park: http://www.pennekamppark.com/


French Reef with fan coral adorning the reef.

Brain coral thrives in Pennekamp's protected waters.
Dive and snorkeler boats cannot drop anchor here, but
tie to mooring buoys afixxed into the bottom.  

But...  as a group, Floridians have become careless with our wonderful natural resource: water. Our consumption is too high, especially for irrigation of our lawns. We don't adjust our irrigation systems properly and they spew water on hard surfaces, which not only wastes the water, it also washes pollutants into the stormwater drainage systems, which flow directly into our rivers, lakes and the ocean.
Misused and un-maintained irrigation systems
are part of the problem where excess water is
wasted.
Vehicle drippage causes rainbows as it's washing into
the nearest stormdrain. 
In addition to vehicle drippage, some of the typical pollutants are fertilizers, pesticides, and organic residue.  The non-point source pollution caused by runoff is huge: maybe only a little comes from each of our properties, but when you multiply that by millions, it's a significant part of the problem.
As Walt Kelly said via Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us!"

So what can we do?

1) We can replace much of our lawn. Kariena Veaudry, our FNPS Executive Director, told us at the Wildflower Symposium that 1/7 of Florida is turf.  If we replace it with butterfly gardens and habitat areas filled with native plants, our properties will become stopping off places for migrating birds, beneficial insects and other wildlife. Native habitats require much less irrigation (after the plants are established) and no poisons or artificial chemical fertilizers are needed. For more ideas on lawn replacement see www.lawnreform.org/.


2) We can retain most of the stormwater that falls on our landscapes with rain gardens and rain barrels. Rain gardens are swales planted with a set of native plants that can tolerate standing water and drought. They are designed to absorb rainwater and allow it to percolate into the soil and be absorbed by the rain garden plants. The water should be absorbed within three days to prevent mosquitoes from breeding there. For more information on rain gardens see Rain Lilies for my Rain Gardens.



This small rain garden catches rain water from a downspout.
Drainage is built in so it doesn't overflow into
surrounding landscape.



Rain barrels collect water from roofs and save this chemical-free water for use around the landscape and more.  For more information on how to hook them up and a list of uses for rain barrel water see: Climb up my rain barrels.


 

3) We can help educate folks about the importance of water and all it does for us, especially the next generation.

Here a park ranger at the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades National Park works with a class of middle school kids, but you don't have to be a ranger to make a difference.
Educate yourself and then spread the word:
We ALL live in a watershed.


If enough of us do this, then Florida's amazing waterways might be in better shape by the time these kids are adults. Wouldn't that be great??



This posting is part of Blog Action Day on WATER.

Ginny Stibolt
Sue Dingwell

4 comments:

  1. Awsome! Awesome article! Thank you so much for this fact filled and USEFUL article.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Florida is a beautiful state. Thanks for highlighting some of her best features. Beautiful photos, too.

    V. Avery

    ReplyDelete
  3. excellent work man,well nice pictures & awesome post

    ReplyDelete
  4. rahul, thank you so much for visiting our blog, and for the nice compliment, too!

    ReplyDelete