It’s long been suspected freshwater releases—down the Caloosahatchee River—from Lake Okeechobee, contribute to algae blooms and fish kills. Yet, there’s been no scientific proof of a connection. But a new study, set to begin next month, looks to find any quantifiable evidence between the releases and the health of the Caloosahatchee estuary. Researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation will use high-tech sensors to track the progress of organic compounds from Lake Okeechobee… and through the estuary. Dr. Randall Alberte is Director of Biotechnology at FGCU… and will help lead the study.
“People argue that the lake releases are the cause of red tide blooms, and selective fish kills and a lot of events here, but nobody really knows. So this is first chance to use new technologies to start answering that question. Where does the lake water go…what are some of the impacts?”
The South Florida Water Management District is funding half of the 200-thousand dollar study. Alberte says he and his colleagues expect to find evidence of oils and fuel additives - drugs and medications that have seeped out of septic systems around the lake - as well as herbicides and pesticides from agricultural runoff. He says the study will finally provide some facts about a contentious subject.
“This whole issue is very emotional. As scientists it’s our responsibility to try and provide the best scientific foundation for making decisions, and for rational management. You can’t manage based on emotion. So it could be good news or bad news for either side of the fence…we just don’t know. I don’t have a particular position, I’m just looking for possible causes…and I think it’s going to be a complicated picture. I don’t think it’s going to be simple.”
Water managers release fresh water from the Lake—down the Caloosahatchee—to maintain safe water levels. Alberte says he hopes the study will lead to new approaches in this ongoing issue.
Tuesday, 30 August 2005 01:00