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Dispatch 6 Audio Transcripts

This page contains the transcripts of audio tracks included in the Springs Expedition dispatches.

Suwannee River Estuary: The End of Water's Journey

Biologist Rob Mattson explains the Importance of spring flow to the Suwannee River and estuary
One of the main sources of the Suwannee River's water is the spring flow. And that water creates a very productive river system here. It's a great fishing river; a very diverse community of algae and invertebrates, and, of course, downstream of one of the largest and most undisturbed estuaries on the Florida Gulf Coast. Literally, I call it a food factory that grows fish and clams and oysters and crabs and that constitutes important habitat for a lot of species of conservation interest. And, I'm speaking both of the spring-fed river here and the estuary.

Biologist Russel Frydenborg explains how rain draws pollutants into the aquifer
Rainfall is what's driving the system. As the rain hits the ground at an uphill location, the rain will seep through the earth and any types of pollutants that are on the surface or in the subsurface of the water due to human activities, the rain will pick that up as it seeps down into the ground. Then, it begins a slow journey of percolation through the soils, going down to the limestone conduits and things like that. And, the lag time between the edge of the recharge area, depending on the spring system, it could be as little as five or ten years, or as much as 40 or 50 years lag time between when a drop of rain hits the ground and when that same water comes outs of the spring system.

Biologist Rob Mattson explains the extent of the river ecosystem
The river is not just the water in the channel. Other ecosystems are very intimately connected to the river. And, one of those, the best example, are the flood plains. These wetland systems are maintained by the seasonal river flooding. The low swamps like this, you could see standing water, that probably reflects water... the water level in the river channel. So, this is a community type here that depends upon adequate quantities of good quality fresh water in the river system. It's a, really a linked part of the river system. You can't protect the river just by protecting the water in the channel, you've got to protect the floodplains, too.

Clammer Sue Colson explains imporance of balance in the ecosystem
All these springs feed into these marshes, and these marshes feed this bay. There's stone crab and there's flounder and there's grouper and there's blue crab and clams, mullet, trout, redfish, red drum. And they all come up in this marsh area here and they spawn and they have their babies. And, it's very important that the mix is perfect. And, for some reason we have kept it that way. And, I think most of it is because we haven't been developed. If the springs were to get contaminated; which some have some heavy pollution that's starting now with the nitrates they're finding, that could alter all of this system here.

Biologist Russel Frydenborg explains the importance of spring run organisms to the food web
The more we can connect the fact that these little organisms, they're not just interesting, they're an integral part of the food web, and they getting changed due to, you know, human actions it this recharge area that's all connected. And then, the people who want to go fishing, they're not getting as many fish, because the fish don't have anything to eat down at the bottom of the food web. And, that's kind of the story here.

Biologist Rob Mattson explains spring impacts as he collects a water sample
This spring really kind of illustrates some of the problems we have with non-point pollution. This first-magnitude spring has the highest nitrate concentrations of any other first-magnitude springs in the state. And, its kind of like, pick your poison. Up one way we've got a big dairy. Up another way we've got a big prison with a sewer plant and a spray field. And, this town surrounding this spring is not on a central sewage system. Where's the nitrate coming from? It's coming from all of those places.

Stan Meeks, Manatee Springs State Park volunteer, explains importance of habitat protection
The best thing we can do is leave it alone. The second best thing we can do, we can watch the life around it like manatees. They're vegetarians, they're docile. We're the only enemies they got. They live in shallow fresh clear water and they they love that good long 24 inch manatee grass. If we can live in the same areas, and provide habitat for manatees, that's a good indication we're doing something right for the environment. But, if we live in an area and the manatees have no habitat left, we're doing something wrong.

Marina owner George Anderson explains the Suwanne reef oyster bed
This is the Great Suwannee Reef. It's approximately 20 miles long and it runs from Horseshoe down to Cedar Key. And man, and animal, and fish and birds have all lived off of this great reef. And, it is here because of the cleanness of the Suwannee River that's fed by these springs. If it was a dead river, a river that is polluted heavily, it would kill this oyster reef and animals and birds could not live off of it.

Biologist Russel Frydenborg explains human reliance on Suwanee Estuary for 1000s of years
We're here at Shell Mound Park, which is near Cedar Key, near the Suwannee Estuary, standing on top of about a 25 foot tall mound of shell--mainly oysters and some clams--several acres in diameter. This has been here for thousands and thousands of years. Early humans in the State of Florida would consume the same oysters that we saw earlier in the day, bring it back here, have lunch, put them on this pile they built up over time. What this shows is a demonstration that the spring water going into the Suwannee, coming down to the estuary, has been an integral part of this whole ecosystem for thousands and thousands of years, has been utilized by early people just as we're using it today. And, one of the key factors between protecting the springs and the recharge areas and the freshwater flow and the water quality is to continue to have this productive estuary that can feed people today and into the future for many other thousands of years.

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