Underground river may
explain Florida Bay ecology problems
Dec. 16, 1996
MIAMI (AP) -- A recently discovered
underground river might be
the cause of Florida Bay's ecological woes, according to
biologists at the University of Miami.
The bay's problems have been a mystery, but scientists
remnant of a wide, prehistoric
waterway is likely fueling algae blooms
that are smothering marine life.
Buried under 35 to 100 feet of rock and muck deposited
over the last
three to five million years, the ancient river may be a
modern pollution pipeline bringing phosphorus-rich water
from the land around Lake Okeechobee to the bay and Gulf
The phosphorus is feeding the algae.
That is the best scientific guess of researchers from the
University of Miami'sRosenstiel School of Atmospheric and
Marine Science. They announced their discovery and theory
to more than 200 scientists who gathered in Key Largo
last week to discuss Florida Bay.
"All we have now are just sort of bits and
pieces," said Donald
McNeill, an assistant professor of marine geology.
"We need to learn
If proven, UM's hypothesis would not only answer the
nagging question about the overfertilization in Florida
Bay, it could dramatically
complicate a daunting task faced by federal engineers and
trying to draft a multibillion-dollar plan for restoring
South Florida's environment.
A team of UM geologists working with the Florida
had discovered the ancient river bed that leads to
Florida Bay. They detected the river bed while drilling
for possible water supply wells.
The outline of the river that has emerged during the
drilling of six wells
had it stretching north to near Lake Okeechobee through
an area of phosphate mines spanning south through swamps
and citrus groves
under the Everglades in and eventually into Florida Bay.
What grabbed Brand's attention was that where the
of the river moves into the bay and into the Gulf
to the nutrient hot spots -- the highest concentrations
of phosphorus measured in seven years of monitoring by
© 1996 News-Journal
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