Tallahassee, FL (January 4, 2021) – With its crystal waters and old cypress forests, the Suwannee River is one of the last vestiges of “Old Florida.” The second-largest river in Florida, the Suwanee is home to at least 237 springs, contributing significantly to local economies. Springs-related tourism and businesses generate $1 billion annually.
But springs along the Suwanee and elsewhere are in peril from groundwater nutrient pollution, invasive non-native aquatic plants and decreased flow as groundwater is diverted for other uses. These stressors can lead to excessive algae, poor water clarity and reduced populations of native fish and other aquatic animals. This in turn discourages local tourism.
The nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida has supported the restoration of Florida’s springs for many years. It recently awarded the High Springs-based nonprofit Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute $40,000 to evaluate the ecological health of seven major springs along the Suwanee River. The surveys will assess water quality, habitat diversity and current levels of human impact.
“Through development of minimum flow and nutrient reduction rules, Florida’s state government is expending significant resources to protect our precious springs,” said Dr. Bob Knight, executive director of the Florida Springs Institute. “With this grant, we are documenting changes in representative springs to help guide decisions concerning ongoing restoration and maintenance efforts. In addition to aiding policymakers, we will be creating science-based springs health report cards to help educate the public about the threats to each spring and actions they can take to help.”
Funds for the grant came from the Foundation’s Protect Florida Springs license plate, which contains the image of a scuba diver. Twenty-five dollars from each purchased plate supports conservation of Florida’s unique springs.
“The Suwanee River is justly famous,” said Foundation President and CEO Andrew Walker. “Its nearly 300 freshwater springs are central to its health and aquatic wildlife diversity. We’re committed to keeping this national treasure a river worth singing about.”
About the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute
The Florida Springs Institute is a non-governmental organization focused on providing springs science and public education related to Florida’s 1,000+ artesian springs. With previous funding from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and private donations, the Florida Springs Institute has prepared detailed restoration plans for Silver Springs, Rainbow Springs, Wakulla Springs, Wekiva Springs, Volusia Blue Springs and the springs feeding the Suwannee River, Santa Fe River and Kings Bay. These resources and many others can be found at FloridaSpringsInstitute.org.