Category Archives: Wetlands Terms & Definitions

Platts Creek Mitigation Project

Platts Creek Mitigation Project is an environmental restoration project in Port St. Lucie, Florida. This 102 acre piece of land once served as an orange grove and has been restored into its original shape as a wetland and dry prairie. I took the Conservation Science class offered through the Florida Master Naturalist Program at the Oxbow Eco Center where most of the indoor classes were held. Expert instructors led the classroom lectures and took us on field trips to nearby restoration preserves.

The highlight of the course I thought was the trip to the Platts Creek Mitigation project which was few miles away from OxBow. The orange grove was given back to the city and county of Port St Lucie for mitigation purposes when a land bridge was built across town connecting the beach to the mainland. Platts Creek has been re-established as a wetland and prairie which now helps to move water through various rivers and watersheds. It also acts as storm water management area when flooding occurs. Environmental land managers have planted native shrubs and trees that are native to Florida, giving the tract of land a more natural look and purpose and giving needed habitat to wildlife. We saw marshes and ponds that help to filter polluted water from the nearby St. Lucie River. There were many apple snail shells on the ground which were probably put there by Snail Kites which are unique birds to South Florida and The Everglades.

 I wasn’t able to finish all 4 days of the course which included a trip to the restored portion of the Kissimmee River which feeds Lake Okeechobee with most of its fresh water. The Kissimmee River Restoration Project  is one of the biggest land and environmental restoration projects occurring in the state and nation. I hope to go back and see the Kissimmee River as it is being restored to its natural state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salt Water Marshes and Amelia Island

Amelia Island, Florida located in the northeast corner of the state just north of Jacksonville is a beautiful barrier island with 13 miles of beaches. Salt water marshes surround much of the island and provide protection against beach erosion as well as providing a rich marine environment for aquatic marine life. The beaches are deep and long and provide people with plenty of room to walk, jog, lay out a blanket and enjoy the surf and views. Amelia Island has a rich history and has belonged to 8 different countries during Americas’ history . The name of the island came from Britain who named it after Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II.

During my brief stop on the island I enjoyed looking at the historic section of the island that has been preserved, the beaches which seem to go on forever, a long pier jutting out into the Atlantic ocean and the beautiful salt marshes which surround much of the island.  The salt water marshes provide food, spawning areas and protection from predators. Other coastlines and barrier islands like those which used to protect the Louisiana coastline near New Orleans could learn a lesson from the healthy salt marshes that protect Amelia Island. Amelia Island has a good website with additional information about this barrier island.

 

Gator Lake – Six Mile Cypress Slough

Gator Lake at the Six Mile Cypress Slough in Ft. Myers is a man made lake that was excavated and made into a large lake back in the 1970’s.  The slough pronounced “slew” was re-established and made into a wetland again so that rainwater and storm water could follow its’ natural course southwards towards the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve. The lake is several hundred yards long and wide and several feet deep. It is the centerpiece of the wetland park owned and operated by Lee County Parks and Recreation. A boardwalk  runs 1.5 miles throughout the preserve and winds itself around the lake and other small ponds where you can observe the native beauty of native birds, trees, plants and other wildlife. There is a team of interpretive naturalists who can take you on guided tours of the park and explain the history of the park, and point out the native trees, plants and wildlife.

Large amounts of soil and landfill had to be removed from the lake bed when it was excavated and created back in the 1970’s. Some of the landfill was used to help build the nearby Six Mile Cypress Pkwy and Page Field Airport.  It took a lot of engineering and landscape work to get the slough back in working condition and the work is continuing. Native trees like the Bald Cypress, Pond Cypress, Oak, Red Maple and Tupelo are located near the lake and in the slough. The lake acts as a wildlife habitat where hundreds of birds use the trees for nesting and migration. Turtles, birds and alligators are often seen sunning themselves on the wooden raft in the middle of the lake. The slough is 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. The headwaters of the slough is currently under development and will be added to the preserve when it is finished. Visit the website of the preserve at Lee County’s Parks and Recreation.  There is also an indoor  interpretive visitor center at the park with a beautiful raised wooden porch in the back of the nature center. Parking is $1 per hour.  Click on any picture to enlarge images.

 

 

Clouds over Florida

Clouds over Florida provide the state with over 54 inches of rain each year. Most of that precipatation comes during the spring and summer months. The clouds that form before, during and after a rain storm are something to see. They increase in size and look like a hundred story building both vertically and across. The thunder and lightning that comes with some of these rain storms are huge and impressive also.

The fun in seeing these storm clouds is looking at the various formations they make. I got on the UCAR Center for Science Education to get the names of some of these formations which I used to know.

The early morning light and late day sun rays give the clouds another dimension which makes them beautiful to look at. It’s hard to believe that Florida has a water shortage problem with all of our rainfall but with a population of 20 million people and growing and the states history of draining our wetlands to make way for cities, farms and dry land, it is understandable. I read on one website that an average rain cloud weighs 550 tons and contains 30 billion raindrops. Some of the clouds is the picture gallery look at least this big. The water vapor that the atmosphere contains in summer makes it feel like you could cut the air with a knife. The rain storms which often occur in late afternoon brings a welcome relief of a temperature decrease, sometimes as much as 10 degrees.

click on any picture for a larger image

 

 

 

 

 

Florida’s Landscapes – Caloosahatchee River

Caloosahatchee River

Caloosahatchee River

Paddling in Caloosahatchee

  Click on pictures for larger images Paddle boarding in the Caloosahatchee

The Caloosahatchee River is an estuary that extends from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee 70 miles inland. It is surrounded by a watershed that has many streams and tributaries that feed into the river. The Caloosahatchee has a long history of being a living and hunting area for Calusa Indians for several hundred years. It served as a vital waterway for humans as well as an important habitat for wildlife and fish. It was once a curving and meandering waterway much like the Kissimmee River but was changed and straightened into a canal in the late 1800’s. It was dredged and straightened into a canal so that it could be used for navigational traffic for boats, irrigation for farms and flood protection. The river was connected to Lake Okeechobee and also serves as a waterway for passage of boats to the east coast of Florida. The altering of the river and the large influx of people who built homes and farms along the river has had some harmful effects to the quality of water in the estuary. The river today supports the irrigation and water supplies for citrus and sugarcane farming, beef cattle production and drinking water supplies for humans. The water quality of the river has been unfortunately degraded from the storm water runoff containing pollutants, excess nitrogen and nutrients and animal and human wastes. It has been the subject of many complaints from concerned citizens and environmentalists who want to preserve and protect the estuary. Fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee to prevent the lake from overflowing it’s banks has adversely affected water quality in the river as well. There are several government agencies who are responsible for the health and protection of the Caloosahatchee including the South Florida Water Management District, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers.  The towns of Ft. Myers, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, LaBelle, Moore Haven and Clewiston lie along the banks of the river. The estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are located along the river in Ft. Myers. A few websites which contain historical and cultural information about the river are Protecting Our Water,  and Florida Sportsman.  The South Florida Water Management District contains updated information about their efforts to protect the water quality of the Caloosahatchee. The pictures in this post were taken on a calm day with clear and sunny skies. I was standing on the north side of the river at the north end of the Caloosahatchee bridge where there is a small pier and a sailing club. A lot of people come here to park, walk along the edges of the water and relax in a very scenic environment.

click on images for larger pictures

 

Hydrology

Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution and quality of our water resources. Florida is a wetland state with more than 29% of its’ land area covered with lakes, streams, swamps, ponds, and estuaries. Florida has a greater percentage of its land area covered by wetlands than any of the lower 48 states.

The Water Cycle is a continuous recycling of water through the evaporation of water from the surface of land and transpiration of water through plants to the atmosphere and then as rain falling to the ground and eventual seepage into the ground.  We could not live without the supply of fresh and continuous water supplies.  Hydrologists study the cycle of water through our systems and report on its quantity, distribution and quality.

Hydrologist’s advise water managers like the South Florida Water Management District and Environmental Protection Agency about the movement of water through our land and underground aquifers. They also test the quality of water for contaminants and toxins that may be coming from several sources such as storm runoff that contains pesticides, fertilizers, industrial waste and human and animal wastes.

For a more complete description of Hydrology and what Hydrologists do visit The U.S. Geological Survey website.

 

 

Algae Bloom on Our Beaches

Algae Bloom on Our Beaches

Algae Bloom on Our Beaches

Don’t worry, this picture is several years old and we haven’t seen this kind of algae pile up on our local beaches in SW Florida in several years. However it has happened several times within the last 15 years and it creates lasting impressions of the health of our lakes, rivers and estuaries. Scientists, the Environmental protection Agency and other groups have been studying what causes this problem but the culprit seems to be nitrogen, phosphorous, and human and animal waste being carried into our waterways by storm water runoff and excessive fertilizers being used too close to rivers and streams. The excessive loading of these pollutants causes the massive algae blooms and green scum that covers the water. I have seen thousands of dead fish lying on the shores of our rivers and beaches because of the excessive amounts of nutrients carried into our waterways. Florida is a heavily populated state with yards, farms and mining operations all playing a part in the problem. There are many efforts being made to prevent this excess nutrient pollution including building filter ponds and reservoirs to collect the pollutants and cleaning the water before being released into our estuaries. The Everglades Restoration Project is actually a massive effort to stop water pollution and to restore our wetlands to a healthy state.  We can all do our part to stop excess pollution from entering our waterways and to protect our beaches. The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods website published by the Extension Service of UFL provides good advice about using appropriate amounts of fertilizers on our lawns, choosing the right plants to use on our property and slowing down harmful storm runoff.  The Environmental Protection Agency has several projects being done to protect our waterways and gives useful information on their website about algae blooms. I have also learned a lot about flood control, water resource permitting and pollution control at the website of the South Florida Water Management District which has responsibility for some of our water quality issues.

click on image for larger picture

 

Florida’s Aquifers

Aquifers are underground areas of rock, limestone, sandstone and soil that contain water. These large areas that are contained within  layers underground in deep, intermediate and shallow zones contain billions of gallons of water that is pumped up and used for drinking water, irrigation for farms and other purposes. There is so much water in these underground aquifers that they are equal to almost one fifth of the water in the Great Lakes.  The deepest aquifer is called the Floridian Aquifer and contains the largest amount of water. It underlies most of Florida and parts of Georgia and  Alabama. The layer above it is called the Intermediate layer and is separate from the Floridian aquifer and the uppermost aquifer called the Surficial aquifer by a non-porous layer of rock and clay.

The aquifer where we pump and get most of our drinking water lies closest to the surface of the earth and is called the Surficial aquifer. It supplies about 90% of our drinking water. Aquifers get their water from rainfall that seeps into the ground and from areas called recharge zones where streams, rivers, marshes, swamps and other wetland areas allow flowing water to penetrate the ground and travel down to one or more of the aquifers. There are maps and illustrations on many websites showing the approximate size and depth of these aquifers. One of these websites is from the Univ. of Florida Water Quality report of Florida. You can click on an image and see what our aquifers look like.  The South Florida Water Management District which controls the water supplies of much of South Florida also has an excellent website describing aquifers.  I also like the Amy H. Remley Foundation website which gives wonderful illustrations of aquifers and much information about where our water comes from.

 

 

 

Scientific Classification – Taxonomy

Scientific Classification

Classification of all living things also called Taxonomy was started by a Swedish scientist named Carl Linnaeus who lived in the early 1700’s. He was interested in plants or botony and was fascinated by the differences and similarities of the plants he studied. Today we have a hierarchy or list of classifications of life on earth that starts with the broadest definitions or Domains which is composed of 3 classes, Archaea, Bacteria and Eukaryotes. These domains are further subdivided into 5 kingdoms of life whose names we are mostly familiar with, Plants, Animals, Fungi, Protists and Monera (bacteria). These five kingdoms of life have then been categorized into smaller groups which branch off into various forms of life starting with the largest to smallest, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and finally Species. In some caes there are subspecies of an organism such as the Florida Panther, (P.ccoryi). The scientific name for a living organism, plant, animal, fungi, etc. is given in Latin since that was the language used by scientists who developed the Binomial nomenclature system for naming living things. The first word is the Genus of an organism and is capitalized and the second term is the species of the organism and is in lower case. I have given the scientific classification for most of the wildlife and plants that I have in this website unless I wasn’t sure what species is belonged to. The Scientific Classification for a Florida Panther is:

Kingdom                           Animalia

Phylum                              Chordata

Class                                   Mammalia

Order                                 Carnivore

Family                                 Felidae

Genus                                 Puma

Species                                P. concolor

subspecies                          P.c.coryi

 

Swamps

Bald Cypress Trees in Six Mile Cypress Slough and Swamp

Bald Cypress Trees in Six Mile Cypress Slough and Swamp

Swamps

Swamps, marshes and prairies are a common part of the landscape of Florida. They are important for several reasons including flood control, water storage and supply and providing a habitat for fish and wildlife. Swamps differ from marshes because of their hydro period (length of time they are submerged in water)  and the type of trees, and vegetation that grows there. Swamps and Marshes covered half of Florida at one time but they have been reduced by over 50% because of the urbanization of the land and uses for farming and livestock. Florida’s swamps are dominated by woody vegetation (trees) as opposed to marshes which are dominated by herbaceous vegetation such as low growing shrubs and grasses. Swamps are biologically more diverse than marshes and therefore are home to a greater variety of fish and animals. Swamps are located in depressions in the land and have standing water in them for over half of the year. Bald Cypress, Pond Cypress, Tupelo and Pine trees are common in swamp land and forests. Hammocks are protrusions of land from the swamp that may hold a group of trees and wildlife that prefer a dryer soil bed. Some of the larger swamps that remain in Florida are The Everglades National Park http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm

The Big Cypress National Preserve http://www.nps.gov/bicy/index.htm  The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/greenswamp.html and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. http://corkscrew.audubon.org/

 Florida Master Naturalist Program –   classes taught by instructors in wetlands, coastal systems and uplands.

http://www.masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu/