|Home||Archived February 20, 2019||(i)|
A Suwannee River Basin and Estuary Integrated Science Workshop was held September 22-24 in Cedar Key, FL. Scientists, resource managers, and representatives from State and regional agencies from Florida and Georgia met with Federal researchers to develop research and management objectives for the Suwannee River ecosystem. All parties agreed that the basin and estuary form an ecosystem deserving of special efforts to conserve its unusual natural resources-water, plants, and animals that are important to local economies and lifestyles in the region. Human and natural impacts in the Suwannee River basin are magnified in the estuary. Together, the basin and estuary include much of north-central Florida and south-central Georgia. "The U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] is well suited to facilitate cooperative efforts of researchers and agencies across State and other jurisdictional boundaries in the Suwannee River basin and estuary," said Thomas Armstrong, Science Coordinator for the USGS Eastern Region. "It is our hope that our endeavor in the Suwannee River ecosystem can serve as a model for similar efforts in other river basins and estuaries in the Southeast and across the Nation."
Research questions identified during the workshop linked water supply, water quality, and ecosystem function across county and State boundaries. The mostly pristine Suwannee River system is a watershed that has grown increasingly vulnerable to competing demands on water supply and multiple environmental impacts. The workshop's 125 participants focused on addressing the challenges of basinwide information needs, science priorities, and management issues. The four main topics were (1) water quality and geochemistry, (2) hydrogeology, (3) ecosystem dynamics, and (4) information management.
Workshop participants gave 44 presentations on topics ranging from recreational fishing, nutrient contamination of spring discharge, and habitat mapping to protected species, including the Florida salt marsh vole, the Gulf sturgeon, and the Florida manatee. Porous limestone and numerous springs complicate the hydrology of the basin, which is economically dependent on agriculture, fishing, and a productive estuary. The springs, wildlife, and river recreation also support a burgeoning ecotourism industry.
"Heavy loading of nutrients, ecological and economic considerations, and rapidly growing demands for water are all concerns we have for the basin and estuary," said Brian Katz, USGS research hydrologist and one of this year's primary workshop coordinators. "The Suwannee River ecosystem can serve as an effective model for more impacted basins throughout the United States, in part due to the habitat-sensitive indicator species that call the river and estuary home."
"An area of gravel-covered bottom about 140 miles upstream from the river's mouth is an essential spawning habitat for the bottom-dwelling Gulf sturgeon," said Randy Edwards, a biologist at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science. "The continued existence of a healthy Gulf sturgeon population in the Suwannee River will reflect the river's healthy condition. In turn, protection of the Gulf sturgeon will help conserve the river."
Brian Katz and Ellen Raabe (of the USGS Florida Integrated Science Center [FISC]) coordinated this year's workshop. The USGS, the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), and the Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI) cosponsored the workshop, which was built on a successful basinwide conference organized through the Suwannee Basin Interagency Alliance (SBIA) three years ago in Live Oak, FL. Representatives from SBIA and other stakeholders, as well as Janet Oehmig, legislative aide for Florida State Senator Nancy Argenziano, attended the workshop. Argenziano's district includes most of the Suwannee River basin and estuary in Florida.
More information about the workshop, including an agenda and photographs, is available on the Suwannee River Basin and Estuary Initiative Web page.
in this issue:
Suwannee River Basin and Estuary Integrated Science Workshop
|Home||Archived February 20, 2019|