Thursday, February 23, 2012

Under Manatee Springs

Last Sunday, was Mrs. FC's birthday and all the kids were home for BBQ and birthday cake. When the hoopla had subsided and people had begun to disperse, Junior asked me if I wanted to go snorkel at Manatee Springs.

It was late in the afternoon on a cloudy, cool day, but it did seem like a really good idea. So, I grabbed the GOPRO and my snorkeling gear and off we went.

The video above is an edited compilation of short clips I shot with the GOPRO.  I haven't installed my Blurfix flat lens conversion kit yet, so the underwater footage will have a slight soft focus.

I forget the depth of the main spring at Manatee Springs, but I think that log on the bottom is around 22 feet down. That depth sticks in my head for some reason.

As pretty as the water and underwater scenery may look to you, this is a degraded spring.
When my kids were little, just 15 years ago, none of the smothering filamentous green algae was there, or at least not so you would notice.  
The rocky cliffs around the main bowl were bare and mostly white, the bottom was white sand with patches of eel grass waving in the current.

Of course the rocks and sand are still there, and still white I assume, beneath an all encompassing mat of filamentous green algae.

The culprit here are nitrates in the aquifer water that gushes out of the spring cave. Nitrates are essentially a plant fertilizer, so if you combine very clear water that allows a maximum amount of light to penetrate and fertilizer, you get rampant algae growth. The algae outcompete the vascular plants like eelgrass because they are simpler and reproduce much faster.

The nitrates come mostly from agricultural operations that have located in the recharge area for the aquifer feeding this spring. The Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Water Management Districts,  and the farmers/ranchers are working to implement BMP's (Best Management Practices) that can reduce nitrate infiltration from animal waste, but the solution is not an easy one.

The Karst topography here in North Florida is so porous that water literally races down through the soil and broken limerock to the aquifer beneath. Toss in our heavy rains and the problem becomes even more challenging.

In the meantime, the damage is done and spring after spring shows signs of nitrate pollution.

The scary thing is ... they are still beautiful, especially so if you are seeing them for the first time. The visitor or newcomer doesn't have the perspective of "before" to compare to the current "after".
Ignorance is bliss.

From my perspective , every spring I have been to in the past 5 years is a green coated shadow of it's former self.

 I am an optimist, but this is one problem that won't be solved quickly.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to put my head and my GOPRO under as many springs as I can, as often as I can.


Barbie said...

It's a shame we haven't found a good use for hair algae yet. Some day we'll find out we could have benefited from it in some way.

Then again if the fish won't even eat it....

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

You GOPRO does a nice job on color. That was nice and relaxing. I haven't been to Manatee in years! Used to love going out there.

Question: what would you do if you came face to face with a gator? I heard that they sometimes are in the springs. That scared the...well, you know out of me.


PS Did you want those air filters?

Robert V. Sobczak said...

I recently read that part of the problem has something to do with source of water, or proportion of older water, being displaced by a larger portion of newer shallower water as a result of groundwater pumping, and not just nutrient loading by itself. BTW: fun video.

Anonymous said...

PS...Happy Birthday to Mrs. FC!!


robin andrea said...

Love the video. Nice to see that under-water perspective. Really a shame about the algae.

threecollie said...

Simply dazzling!

Dani said...

*sad sigh*

Thunder said...

Great video! It really is a shame how its degraded. I remember snorkeling in it with our oldest, Matt, when all there was were patches of eel grass. We even saw a blue eel come darting out of it!

Miz S said...

Same problem up here in the Chesapeake Bay with algae fueled by nitrates. Sad.

But hey! Happy birthday to Mrs FC!

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