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Patricia C Behnke

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Florida's Connectivity
By Patricia C Behnke   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Posted: Tuesday, March 28, 2006

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It's Time to Connect the Dots on Florida's Environment

I often imagine what the early inhabitants of Florida saw as they fished in the rivers, hunted in the forests and lived on the prairies. Breathtaking beauty surrounds us in the panhandle, on both coasts and in the central rolling hills in Florida.

Unfortunately, wherever perfection exists, man believes perfection can be perfected. And nowhere is this practice more evident than in the sunshine state.

Yet when we destroy one thing in an ecosystem, we are not just destroying a part, we are working on the erosion of the whole.

When will we learn we cannot take away from nature and hope what we introduce will be better? And when will we understand that our actions are connected to the larger world now and in the future?

The wholesale destruction of mangroves for most of the 20th century should have taught us something. Without the mangroves, the entire southern coastal zone would be in danger of disappearing. Studies conducted by the Florida Marine Research Institute show that in the Tampa Bay area alone, 44 percent of the coastal wetlands acreage — including salt marshes and mangrove forests — have been destroyed over the last 100 years.

What does this have to do with the ecosystem in which the mangrove lives? Plenty. The mangrove roots trap organic material and serve as surfaces for other marine organisms to attach and thrive. The forests themselves serve as the home base for marine life, and animals shelter themselves from the elements within the protective cover of the mangrove arms. The salt marshes serve as the lifeblood to this tree that welcomes the salty environment.

Efforts to protect some of the last of rural Florida include the government buying lands at the federal, state and local levels. However, places such as St. George Island in Apalachicola Bay, with its nine-mile stretch of state park, cannot fight the development that is creeping up on the entrance to the park. And even with the purchase of these lands for public use, ribbons of asphalt roads and ropes of boardwalks make an impact upon the pristine nature of the land. But they are necessary evils if we are to enjoy the rawness of nature without doing more destruction, such as destroying the sea oat from its protective berth upon the dunes.

Those little wisps of stalks sitting upon the sand shoot deep roots into the dunes helping to keep the sand in place and thus preventing erosion. Without their presence, the coastline would begin disappearing back into the sea at an alarming rate.

And right here in the middle of the state the connectivity to all that happens in every part of Florida is seen in the appearance of pollution in our rivers and springs which lead directly into the Floridan aquifer and our drinking water.

Ichetucknee Springs, a long time local favorite for tubing and canoeing, appears to be one of the last pristine locations left in north Florida. Floating down the fast-flowing river past the great blue herons feeding on the banks, the turtles sunning on the rocks and the live oaks hanging low over the river, it is impossible to imagine that trouble lurks all around.

Yet recent studies from Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Geological Survey are showing that pollution from Lake City’s wastewater spray field is making its way down into the underground water system to the headspring of the Ichetucknee nearly fifteen miles away. DEET traces have also been found in these waters.

Studies have shown that an underwater highway beginning at Alligator Lake in Lake City connects to the headspring of the Ichetucknee, a completely spring-made river. The Ichetucknee River eventually flows into the Santa Fe River and the Santa Fe, several miles later, reaches the Suwannee River, which then flows into the Gulf Mexico.

If we can make the connection from Lake City to the Gulf of Mexico, is it such a giant leap to connect the dots between the Keys, the Everglades, Tampa Bay, Miami and the rest of the state and beyond?

We can no longer live in oblivious ignorance regarding the world around us. If we continue on this same path, very little will matter because there will be no water to drink and no food to eat that is not contaminated with our irresponsibility

Web Site: Patricia Behnke

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Reviewed by E. P. Ned Burke 6/28/2007
I have lived in Florida for nearly 30 years and agree what you say. Keep up the good work. My site might interest you as two of my novels take place in a fictional town (based on a real town) in Florida. Ned
Reviewed by Joyce Bowling 4/24/2007
Wow! what a powerful write! Sadly many of the problems that we as a nation are facing today, could have been avoided. But, maybe if more communities, cities, and states would work together we could still make a difference! Humans selfish attitudes and greed of the past and today have nearly destroyed our earth and our families future of tomorrow! Great article!
Joyce Bowling
Reviewed by Debby Rosenberg 4/23/2007
multiply that by every state, every country, and continent and we have the general consensus we've done some damage to the planet...however I believe in humanity's evolution and in mother nature's most amazing ability to survive...
Reviewed by Hanley Harding 4/2/2006
Dear Patricia;

As a south Floridian (north of Miami Beach), I am acutely aware that unchecked "development" by draining of the Everglades wetlands will leave the Biscayne Aquifer (our SOLE underground source of fresh water) a dried-out, cracking sponge. Also, the bladderwort (an innocuous little Everglades plant) is how our water is filtered and cleansed of harmful substances as it percolates down into the aquifer. The "drying-out" of Florida would be our ecological doom (the numerous sinkholes are an indication of what could come). Processed & delivered water could become as expensive as gasoline. Good article.


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