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Nutrient Enrichment in Florida Springs

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The pallid cave crayfish (Procambarus pallidus)
Cave-dweller: The pallid cave crayfish (Procambarus pallidus), a blind cave-dwelling crustacean found in ground water of the Floridan aquifer in the Suwannee River Basin.
A team of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research scientists is studying the effects of nutrient enrichment on water quality and biota in Florida's spring systems.

The Florida Springs Interdisciplinary Science Study is an integrated effort that builds on the knowledge of Federal, State, and local partners who have noted a steady increase in nitrate concentrations in spring waters during the past 40 years. High nitrate concentrations concern scientists and partners because the Upper Floridan aquifer supplies water for human consumption and supports critical ecological habitats for various species.

Manatee Springs has been selected for the pilot study. This first-magnitude spring discharges about 140 cubic feet per second of water from the Upper Floridan aquifer into a 1,200-foot spring run and flows southward into the Suwannee River, currently designated an Outstanding Florida Waterbody. The estuary of this river system is also an Outstanding Florida Waterbody and a State Aquatic Preserve and National Wildlife Refuge. What's more, the Suwannee River contains the greatest diversity of subterranean decapod crustaceans anywhere in the world.

USGS researchers Dale Griffin, Peter Swarzenski, Stephen Walsh, Howard Jelks, and Brian Katz concur that understanding how human activities on the surface affect the aquifer system will aid the development of more effective strategies to protect spring waters from further degradation and to help remediate springs that are already contaminated.

Main spring pool at Manatee Springs
Spring pool: Main spring pool at Manatee Springs.

USGS hydrologist Jerry Casile collects spring-water samples for age-dating analysis
Sample collection: USGS hydrologist Jerry Casile (Reston, VA) collects spring-water samples for age-dating analysis.

The team is using innovative techniques incorporating the fields of hydrology, geochemistry, microbiology, ecology, and geography to study sources of nutrient enrichment of spring water discharging to the Suwannee River and associated ecological impacts. To identify the major source(s) of nutrient enrichment that threaten the aesthetic, cultural, and recreational value of Manatee Springs, the scientists have designated five research objectives:

  1. Determine the major source(s) of nutrient enrichment, using geochemical and microbiological tracer techniques

  2. Develop baseline surveys of organisms that may be suitable for examining the ecological effects of nutrient enrichment in spring waters

  3. Determine the occurrence of other contaminants of concern that could be associated with nutrient enrichment in spring waters, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and their degradates

  4. Delineate effective recharge areas for Manatee Springs, highlighting areas most vulnerable to contamination on the basis of geologic conditions and current land-use practices

  5. Assess how changing land-use practices have affected concentrations of nutrients and other contaminants in the spring.

The multidisciplinary approach has added value to the spring study. The research team has determined that these state-of-the art techniques, which have been highly effective in many diverse hydrogeologic environments, can also be tested for applicability in the complex karst systems found in the Suwannee River basin. The Florida Springs Interdisciplinary Science Study is expected to conduct studies of other spring systems in the Suwannee River Basin during the next several years.

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
North Carolina's Outer Banks

Research Gulf of Mexico Contaminants

Nutrient Enrichment in Florida Springs

Outreach Gulf Region: Subsidence, Fault Activation, and Wetland Loss

Future of Natural Gas

Icelandic Language Lecture

Massachusetts Marine Educators Weekend

University of New Hampshire Lectures

Earth Day Celebration

Florida Oceans Day

Museum Exhibit on Natural Disasters

Meetings Phytotechnologies Workshop

West-Central Florida Evapotranspiration

Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration

Web-Site Data Base Demonstration

Staff & Center News St. Petersburg Bloodmobile

Patent Plaque Presentation

Publications El Niño Article

June Publications List

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