By: Katrina Elsken, Lake Okeechobee News
GAINESVILLE — Population growth in Florida has caused increased problems with invasive aquatic plants, Kipp Frohlich, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) director of Habitat and Species Conservation, explained at the Feb. 22 FWC meeting in Gainesville.
“People want to live near and on the water,” said Mr. Frohlich. “People want to live close to freshwater, and they do. They build all around lakes and ponds.” This leads to nutrient enrichment.
“We get nutrient laden water coming into our lakes from all kinds of sources – septic tanks, agricultural runoff and urban runoff. That’s adding nutrients to these systems.
“The other change is the lack of fluctuation. Lakes in Florida, typically before we changed them, they’re shallow and they would rise and fall a lot throughout the year,” he continued.
Before the man-made changes to the system for flood control and water supply, the lakes would overflow their banks through storm events, pushing nutrients into the flood plains. In drought conditions, they would draw down and dry out, which was healthy for the lakes and encouraged growth of native vegetation.
Now the lakes are maintained in a very narrow band without the extreme highs and lows, he continued. The lakes are not allowed to overflow their banks due to the desire to protect the homes of those who live around the lakes.
These man-made changes have cause increased nutrient load in the waterways. He said the increased nutrient load in the water feeds the non-native invasive plants and also causes some native plants to grow to nuisance levels.
“Not everybody has the same view of what ‘their lake’ should look like in the future,” he explained. Duck hunters and bass fishermen want aquatic vegetation to provide habitat for fish and wildlife. Homeowners want a nice view of the water. Water skiers want deep open water.
He said the invasive plants grow extremely fast and have a competitive advantage over the native plants.
“Florida has a long history of battling invasive plants,” he explained. For decades, mechanical control was used to remove the hyacinths. Later chemical controls were added.
Biological controls and fire are also used to control plants…