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ALGAE, EXOTICS, AND MANAGEMENT RESPONSE INT TWO FLORIDA SPRINGS:
COMPETING CONCEPTIONS OF ECOLOGICAL CHANGE INT A TIME OF NUTRIENT
JASON MICHAEL EVANS
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Jason M. Evans
In memory of Ralph Frank Ashodian (1950 to 2006), beloved mentor and friend.
There are many people who made this dissertation possible. First of all, I sincerely thank
all of my committee members for the unique insights and contributions they provided throughout
the dissertation process, as well as my overall academic career at the University of Florida.
Former committee member Dr. Clyde Kiker helped get me through the proposal process through
long, entertaining conversations about interdisciplinary issues. Dr. Mark Brown provided
rigorous courses and excellent mentoring on systems ecology, geographic information systems,
and ecological engineering, while also helping me get over ecological bigotry. Dr. Richard
Hamann prodded me to j oin the Conservation Clinic's springshed protection proj ect, which,
along with his bonfire parties, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my graduate career.
Dr. Richard Haynes served as my advisor throughout my master' s thesis project, provided me
with the opportunity to work as a graduate teaching assistant in two courses, and, perhaps most
rewardingly, has served as my mentor for gardening in the Paynes Prairie corridor. Dr. Annie
Wilkie, my committee cochair, helped me appreciate the wonders of aquatic plants, develop a
deeper appreciation for the many facets of sustainability through the BEST society, and get on
with the business of writing. Dr. Jeff Burkhardt, my committee chair, gave me the freedom of
intellectual and philosophical exploration, while also patiently reining me in to produce
something that, hopefully, turned out to be somewhat coherent. While not on my committee,
Conservation Clinic Director Dr. Tom Ankersen played a key role in this dissertation by, among
other things, introducing me to the Crystal River area.
Next, I thank all of the stakeholders who participated in this research, whose commitment
to protecting springs ecosystems is truly an inspiration. Without their gracious help and time, this
dissertation certainly would not have been possible.
I also thank Julie Morris, Jono Miller, and Heidi Harley for giving me the opportunity to
work as an adjunct professor and environmental consultant at New College of Florida during
much of my Ph.D. candidacy period. Not only was the experience invaluable in itself, the
opportunity to present some of my preliminary dissertation results to students helped the
dissertation evolve in new directions.
My parents and other family have provided great love and support throughout my long
collegiate career. In particular, my wife, Sharon, has selflessly helped support me throughout
most of my graduate career. Her love and patience throughout this process are something that I
appreciate greatly, and will never forget through the rest of our lives.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............. ...............4.....
LIST OF TABLES .........__.. ..... .__. ...............8....
LIST OF FIGURES .............. ...............9.....
AB S TRAC T ............._. .......... ..............._ 10...
1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............12.......... ......
FI orid a' s Springs. ................ .............. ....................... ..........................12
Conservation and Protection Efforts ................. ...............13................
Florida Springs Task Force .............. ...............13....
Water Quality Working Groups .............. ...............14....
Model Land Use Codes .............. ...............15....
Other Regulatory Efforts ................ ...............16........... ....
Research Problem ................. ...............18.......... .....
2 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK ................. ...............22........... ....
Introducti on ................. ...............22.................
Obj ectives .............. ..... ...............22.......... .....
Participatory Research ................. ...............24.................
Typologies of Participation ................. ...............25................
Participatory Methods .............. ...............29....
Problematizing Participation .............. ...............35....
Confronting Wicked Problems ............ ...... ._ ...............39...
Sy stems Ecology............... ...............40
Analytic Scales .............. ...............41....
Multi-scalar Narratives ................. ...............42.................
Adaptive Management............... ...............4
3 ICHETUCKNEE RIVER .............. ...............49....
Site Description .............. .. ...............49...
Socio-Ecological Background .............. ...............51....
Pre-H history .................. ... .......... ...........5
Spanish Invasion (1539 to 1708) ................ ...............52........... ..
Seminole Period (1708 to 1845) ................. ...... ........ ......... .......... .....5
American Settlement and Development (1845 to 1940) ............_...... ..__............53
Early Socio-Ecological Accounts (1940 to 1960) .............. ...............54....
Mass Recreation (1960 to 1980) ............_ ..... ..__ ...............55
Ecological Recovery (1980 to 1990) ................ ...............56........... ..
Water Quality Concerns and Springshed Research ............... ... ........... .. ............. .....57
Uncertain Science: Nitrate-Nitrogen and Algae Response in Springs Ecosystems ...............59
Water Lettuce Eradication ................ ...............64........... ....
Observed Ecosystem Response .............. ...............66....
Systems M odel .............. ...............69....
Stakeholder Responses .............. ...... ......... ...........7
Adaptive Learning and Institutional Rigidity ................. .............. ............... 73.....
Management Experimentation: Moving beyond All or Nothing ................. .....................77
4 KINTGS BAY/CRY STAL RIVER .............. ...............86....
Site Description .............. ...............86....
W atershed Context ................. ...............88.................
Participatory M ethods................... .. .. .... ...................9
History of Nuisance Aquatic Plants in Kings Bay: 1950 to 2005 .............. .....................9
Factors Related to Lyngbya wollei Dominance ................. ...._._ ....._._ .........10
Current Restoration and Management Strategies .............. ...............104....
SW IM Plan ........._..... ......_ ._ .... ...............105
Kings Bay Aquatic Plant Management Plan ........._..._......_._ ........___.........0
Maintenance Control vs. Adaptive Management ............... ....... ......... ........0
Adaptive Restoration Opportunities Provided by Four Notorious Macrophytes .................11 1
Hydrilla ................. ...............111....._._. .....
W ater Hyacinth ........._.___..... ._ __ ...............114....
Eurasian M ilfoil ................. ...............119......... ......
W ater Lettuce ............... ... .. .. ........... .. ... .. .. .. ... .......12
Recommendation: Participatory and Adaptive Management of Aquatic Plants .................. 121
5 CONCLUSION............... ...............13
Research Summary .............. ...............130....
Obj ectives .....__ ................ .........__..........1 0
Research Questions ............... ......... ...........13
Beyond Ideology in Aquatic Plant Management ......__................. ............... 134 ...
Invasion Biology and Ecological Restoration ................ .....................__......13
Alternative Stability Domains ................. ...............1 8....__ ....
Defining Harm ................. ...............140....... ......
Final Thoughts ......__................. .........__..........14
APPENDIX ................. ...............147....... ......
LI ST OF REFERENCE S ....__. ................. .......__. .........14
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........._.__............ ...............168....
3-1 T-test comparison of Ichetucknee River nitrate levels, 1985-1998 vs. 2001-2006 ..........84
LIST OF FIGURES
3-1. Map of Ichetucknee River and Springs ................. ............. ......... ........ .......80
3-2. Time series photographs of Devil's Eye Spring A) 1987 B) 1989 C) 1993 D) December
2000 E) M ay 2001. ............. ...............81.....
3 -3. Map of water lettuce removal at ISSP ................ ...............82.............
3-4. Ichetucknee Springs nitrate: 1966 2006 .............. ...............83....
3-5. Ichetucknee Springs nitrate: 1985-2006 ................ ...............83..............
3-6. Ichetucknee Springs nitrate: 2001 2006 .............. ...............84....
3-7. Systems model of water lettuce and algae competition at Ichetucknee River.. ................... ...85
4-1. Map of Kings Bay/Crystal River ................. ...............124.............
4-2. West Indian manatees in Kings Bay, May 2006 .............. ...............125....
4-3. Lyngbya wollei in Kings Bay, May 2005 ................. ............... ......... ........ ...125
4-4. Aerial photograph of Kings Bay, 1944 ................. ...............126.............
4-5. Aerial photograph of Kings Bay, 1960 ................. ...............126........... .
4-6. Aerial photograph of Kings Bay, 1974 ................. ...............127.............
4-7. Kings Bay total nitrogen and total phosphorus, 1989-2002 ................ .......................127
4-8. Harvester in Kings Bay, May 2006 .............. ...............128....
4-9. Contents of harvester in Kings Bay, May 2006................... ......___ ........ ...........128
4-10. Tape grass and Lyngbya wollei after harvester pass in Kings Bay, May 2006 ..................129
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
ALGAE, EXOTICS, AND MANAGEMENT RESPONSE INT TWO FLORIDA SPRINGS:
COMPETING CONCEPTIONS OF ECOLOGICAL CHANGE INT A TIME OF NUTRIENT
Jason Michael Evans
Chair: Robert J. Burkhardt
Cochair: Ann C. Wilkie
Major: Interdisciplinary Ecology
Interdisciplinary methods based upon principles of participatory action research, systems
ecology, and adaptive management were used to create multi-scalar narratives of ecological
changes associated with nutrient enrichment in two Florida springs ecosystems: Ichetucknee
River and Kings Bay/Crystal River. Review of scientific literature, presentation of historic water
quality data, qualitative interviews with stakeholders, and iterative public engagements with
stakeholders about ecosystem management policy are integrated in both of the case studies.
Patterns of management pathology, or the tendency of management institutions to rigidly adhere
to policies that are inappropriate for the maintenance of desired socio-ecological values in the
face of emergent environmental changes, were identified at both Ichetucknee River and Kings
Bay/Crystal River in relation to ecosystem management policies narrowly based upon the
minimization of nonnative plant species. While management of nonnative plants generally is
based upon the laudable goal of maintaining native biodiversity and ecological function, a
holistic consideration of historical ecology, scientific literature, and stakeholder accounts
indicates that emergent conditions associated with nutrient enrichment and other contaminant
factors may make aquatic plant management practices an important catalyst in shifting springs
ecosystems towards an undesirable stability domain characterized by dominance of filamentous
algae and cyanobacteria. Adaptive management experimentation based upon growth and
optimum harvest of nonnative plants, particularly water lettuce in Ichetucknee River and water
hyacinth in Kings Bay, is recommended as a potential means of facilitating recovery of more
desirable stability domains.
The artesian springs of Florida are among the world' s most unique and treasured natural
resources. These aquatic ecosystems are known to have served as centers of human culture in
Florida for thousands of years, with images such as the Fountain of Youth and biblical Eden
commonly used throughout historical times to describe the crystal clear water of springs and the
beauty of their surrounding landscapes (Scott et al. 2004). Today Florida' s springs continue to
serve as beloved oases that provide natural respite from the state's summer heat, critical habitat
for unique ecological associations, and important windows into the state's main drinking water
source the Floridan aquifer (Florida Springs Task Force 2000).
Like many of Florida' s ecosystems, alarming changes are being observed in the ecological
condition of springs throughout the state. The most common problems include decreased spring
discharge due to groundwater pumping for human usage, contamination of groundwater by
human land use activities, severe ecological shifts characterized by increased growth of
undesirable plant and algae species, and physical impacts associated with recreational activities
(Florida Springs Task Force 2000). Concern associated with such issues has come from a wide
variety of citizen stakeholders and public officials, with some scientists and policy-makers
suggesting that issues related to springs and groundwater conservation may become as prominent
(and difficult) for Florida in the 21st century as Everglades protection and restoration became in
the latter half of the 20th century. Given the vast ecological costs associated with years of policy
and management failures in the Everglades (Light et al. 1995) and the huge economic costs,
uncertainties, and controversies now associated with implementing the Comprehensive
Everglades Restoration Program, it is hoped that effective conservation and management
strategies will help avert a similar socio-ecological traj ectory for springs and groundwater.
Conservation and Protection Efforts
Several programs specifically dedicated to the conservation and protection of springs have
been initiated by government agencies in recent years. Some of the more notable programs
include 1) the formation of a statewide Florida Springs Task Force that collects information,
funds research, and advocates for the protection of springs statewide; 2) the establishment of
several local "water quality working groups" that collect information, facilitate collaboration,
and advocate for the better protection of individual springs systems and their associated
groundwater basins, or "springsheds," on the local scale; and 3) the development of model
springshed protection land use codes that local governments may incorporate within their growth
Florida Springs Task Force
In 1999, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) formed the Florida
Springs Task Force as a multi-agency entity charged with recommending "strategies for the
protection and restoration of Florida's springs" (DEP 2007b). An initial report produced by the
Florida Springs Task Force (2000) has served as the primary foundation for springs protection
and restoration over subsequent years. The two maj or strategies suggested by the report for
fostering and promoting springs protection are education of the public and formation of
collaborative springshed working groups, with the hope being that "appreciation of Florida' s
springs" will "bring about cooperation and voluntary compliance" with springshed protection
efforts (Florida Springs Task Force 2000, 22). Examples of funded education efforts include
production of videos, outreach to public schools and local governments, and placement of signs
along highways to denote springshed capture areas. Significant research related to springs
hydrogeology and identifying groundwater contaminant sources has been performed through the
auspices of the Florida Springs Task Force and other government agency programs (e.g., Jones et
al. 1996; Katz et al. 1999; Champion and Starks 2001; Butt and Murphy 2003). Knowledge
developed through these studies has been critical for identifying ways in which current
regulatory programs might be modified and/or strengthened to better protect water quality in
Water Quality Working Groups
Formation of water quality working groups is promoted by the Florida Springs Task Force
(2000) as a means of expanding upon the educational and research missions of springs protection
on a local basis. Working groups have been formed for several large springs groups, including
Wakulla Springs, Silver Springs, Ichetucknee Springs, and the lower Santa Fe Springs.
Participants in the working group process typically include representatives from government
agencies, the local agricultural community, business groups, environmental organizations,
university researchers, and other members of the general public concerned about springs
ecosystems. Working group meetings generally are held on a quarterly or bi-annual basis, with
the stated intention of facilitating "a vigorous, collaborative process for identification and
resolution of spring problems" through discussion of research findings, creation of outreach
strategies, and making plans for meeting additional research and outreach needs (Florida Springs
Task Force 2000, 24-25). The ideal behind such a collaborative approach is to build upon local
and scientific knowledge to develop appropriate conservation goals, create research and
volunteer networks that can monitor progress towards conservation goals, and maintain a visible
political presence that helps to ensure the consistent pursuit of spring protection into the future.
Model Land Use Codes
Soon after the release of the Florida Springs Task Force report, an advisory committee
composed of representatives from several state agencies, local governments, business groups,
and environmental organizations was formed by the Florida Department of Community Affairs
(DCA) and DEP. The deliberations and recommendations of this committee were used to
produce a planning manual that recommends a series of land use policies and practices that can
be used by local governments, industries, and the general public to further the goal of protecting
water quality in springs ecosystems through the process of local comprehensive planning (DCA
and DEP 2002). Comprehensive planning is the general framework under which local
governments in Florida regulate growth and development in their communities, and the statutory
rubric of this process gives local communities the power "to articulate a vision of the future
physical appearance and qualities of its community" using a "collaborative planning process"
(Florida Statutes 2006a). Due to both the broad powers of local government to regulate
development and the impact that development can have on the water quality of nearby springs,
the manual suggests that local comprehensive planning represents one of the most powerful
instruments for developing long-terms springs protection strategies.
General guidelines as to how human impacts on springsheds can be mitigated through site
selection and development design are given in the planning manual, as are more specific best
management practices (BMPs) for large land usages that can be associated with large nutrient
loadings, such as golf courses, silviculture, and agriculture (DCA and DEP 2002). In addition, it
is suggested that local governments can utilize hydrogeologic information to create planning
maps that designate appropriate land uses based upon the risks of groundwater contamination
associated with geologic formations and connections with springs. Under these guidelines,
highly vulnerable areas geographically near and/or with direct hydrogeologic connections to
springs would be designated as "primary protection zones." Low intensity land usages such as
conservation land, open space, unimproved rangeland, and long rotation silviculture would be
considered appropriate for these primary protection zones. "Secondary protection zones" would
be established for those areas not as vulnerable as primary zones, but that are still important to
protect due to their function as treatment zones for water moving toward the spring from more
intensive land usages. Higher intensity silviculture, rangelands, low density rural residential, and
any of the primary protection land usages are considered appropriate for secondary protection
zones. "Tertiary zones" appropriate for more intensive land usages such as high density
residential, intensive agriculture, mining, heavy commercial, and golf course would be
established for all areas that do not pose a high risk of contaminating springs. While the
development and implementation of such planning regulations currently are at the complete
discretion of local jurisdictions, some communities near popular springs have recently begun to
adopt some of the recommended planning principles (DEP 2005).
Other Regulatory Efforts
One of the major regulatory impediments to springs conservation is the use of drinking
water quality criteria in the establishment of permitting standards for municipal and agricultural
wastewater discharged into groundwater (Evans 2004). Direct discharges of municipal and
agricultural wastewater into surface water are discouraged by DEP as a matter of explicit public
policy (DEP 2007d). Advanced wastewater treatment with minimum standards of 3 mg/L of
Total Nitrogen (TN) and 1 mg/L of Total Phosphorus (TP) typically is required of municipal
facilities that do discharge into state waters (Florida Statutes 2006c). However, municipal
wastewater facilities that discharge into groundwater typically only are required to meet a
secondary treatment standard of 10 mg/L for TN (Florida Administrative Code 1993) and not
result in violations of the 10 mg/L drinking water standard for nitrate-nitrogen within the
groundwater (DEP 2007c). In addition, large animal feeding operations are regulated by DEP
through its industrial wastewater program. Receipt of an industrial wastewater permit is
contingent upon determination by DEP that discharges will not adversely affect flora, fauna,
and/or beneficial uses or result in drinking water violations in the receiving water body (Florida
Administrative Code 2005). In practice, adverse ecological changes in surface waters occur at
nutrient levels well below numeric drinking water quality standards,' and nutrient management
plans designed to prevent such adverse effects are required of facilities that discharge
agricultural wastewater into state water bodies (Florida Administrative Code 2005).
These discrepancies between surface water permitting standards based upon ecological
criteria and groundwater permitting standards based upon less stringent human health criteria
likely have had the effect of spurring preferential construction of facilities designed to discharge
wastewater directly into groundwater, including springshed areas (Evans 2004). The
straightforward economic rationale for choosing groundwater discharge in such a regulatory
environment is that secondary treatment is significantly less expensive to achieve than advanced
treatment. However, studies increasingly suggest that permitted wastewater discharges from
municipal and agricultural sources may be a significant source of nitrate-nitrogen loading to
springs ecosystems such as the Wakulla River, Ichetucknee River (Ritchie 2006), and Wekiva
River (DEP 2004a). The process of groundwater discharges eventually affecting surface water
resources fed by groundwater, such as springs ecosystems, was not anticipated when current
SA serious problem with the overall regulatory system is the utilization of drinking water standards designed to
protect human health as the default water quality standard for water bodies that have primary ecological usages. For
example, Florida establishes no explicit numeric standard for nitrate in Class III surface water resources used for
boating, swimming, and fishing, but does state that nutrients must not cause an "imbalance in natural populations of
aquatic flora or fauna" (Florida Administrative Code 2006). Numeric standards for individual water bodies generally
are established as a mitigation tool after a water body is deemed "impaired," in the sense that an imbalance of flora
and fauna as a result of nutrient loading is documented. Establishment of numeric criteria for nutrients as a
preemptive means of avoiding impairment, while undoubtedly complex, clearly is needed if prevention of
impairment is a primary goal of clean water regulations.
regulatory frameworks were crafted (Evans 2004). To address such concerns, the DEP has
engaged in a thorough review of how groundwater quality permitting standards might be
modified for springsheds impacted by wastewater (DEP 2004a), and has also helped broker
agreements and secure financing for upgrades to advanced treatment for wastewater facilities
that discharge into springshed areas (DEP 2006). Additional measures such as the aggressive
development of BMPs for farmers within springsheds and, in some cases, establishment of total
maximum daily loadings (TMDLs) are being pursued for the purpose of reducing nutrient
loadings into groundwater from all sources, including wastewater, agriculture, and urban
stormwater (DEP 2007a).
While these education, regulatory, and planning efforts undoubtedly represent an important
step in springs conservation, little research attention, however, has been given to the socio-
ecological complexities associated with managing and/or restoring springs ecosystems through a
time of long-term nutrient enrichment. The rationale for such an ecosystem management concern
is fairly straightforward. Even if it is assumed that current conservation strategies are highly
successful in reducing the loading of contaminants (such as nitrate-nitrogen) into springsheds,
groundwater monitoring and hydrogeological research both indicate that extant contamination is
likely to take several decades to "flush" through springs ecosystems (Jones et al. 1996; Katz et
al. 1999; Champion and Starks 2001; Cowell and Dawes 2004). Consequently, the grim
prognosis is that, despite ongoing conservation efforts, water quality is likely to continue
declining in many springs ecosystems for at least the next two or three decades a condition
with profound and far-reaching implications that current management practices and policy
discussions have yet to reckon with in any holistic manner.
The primary obj ective of this dissertation research was to directly engage this major gap
through case studies of two popular springs ecosystems that are both affected by groundwater
contamination and have active cooperative restoration programs based upon the working group
model: Ichetucknee Springs and Kings Bay/Crystal River. Interdisciplinary methods based upon
principles of participatory action research, systems ecology, and adaptive management were used
to create multi-scalar narratives that discuss ecological changes associated with nutrient
enrichment in both of these ecosystems, as well as the ongoing management responses to these
changes. Review of scientific literature about springs and other aquatic ecosystems, presentation
of historic water quality data, qualitative interviews with stakeholders and ecosystem managers,
and iterative public engagements with stakeholders and ecosystem managers about ecosystem
management policy are integrated within both of the case study narratives.
What emerges from this broad approach is the identification of what recent natural
resource theorists have deemed "management pathologies" (Holling 1995; Gunderson et al.
2006). Management pathologies have their origin in management institutions rigidly adhering to
policies that are inappropriate for the maintenance of desired socio-ecological values in the face
of emergent environmental changes. A typical result of such static management is the
precipitation of a complex and nonlinear shift in ecological function and structure, which often is
expressed as the sudden collapse of the socio-ecological values that management policies
originally were designed to protect (Holling 1995). The shifts in ecological conditions
represented by the sudden collapse are generally referred to as alternative "stable states" or
"stability domains." Sudden switches in stability domain, particularly in aquatic ecosystems,
have proven extremely difficult to reverse through traditional management, conservation, and
restoration approaches (Scheffer et al. 1993; Gunderson 1999).
Patterns of management pathology were identified at both Ichetucknee River and Kings
Bay/Crystal River in relation to ecosystem management policies narrowly based upon the
minimization of nonnative plant species. While management of nonnative plants generally is
based upon the laudable goal of maintaining native biodiversity and ecological function, a
holistic consideration of historical ecology, scientific literature, and stakeholder accounts
indicates that emergent conditions associated with nutrient enrichment and other contaminant
factors may make traditional aquatic plant management practices an important catalyst in shifting
springs ecosystems towards an undesirable stability domain characterized by dominance of
filamentous algae and cyanobacteria.
Following and expanding upon a recent philosophical argument made by Sagoff (2005), it
is argued that the a priori attribution of ecological harm to targeted nonnative plants is a primary
factor driving the observed management pathologies, in regard to both moral and scientific
discourse. In terms of moral discourse, it was found that key institutional actors tend to conflate
the socio-moral attribution of harm into a technocratic conception of established scientific
knowledge, with this conflation then used as a basis for discouraging open reflection, public
debate, and/or experimental modification of current management policies.2 As a result, novel
assessments of ecosystem conditions and management activities become stunted at an a priori
level, to the detriment of both the advancement of scientific knowledge and the creation of
SPut another way, the "harmfulness" of nonnative species is thus mistakenly defined as an undisputable scientific
fact, rather than as a highly disputable socio-moral claim about what constitutes harm. Following Norton (2005) and
other pragmatist philosophers of science, the distinction between facts and values implied here can, however, also be
called into question. Through a pragmatist conception of truth, there ultimately are no "undisputed facts." Rather,
there are good arguments and bad arguments that can be used in support of claims, and it is based upon the strength
of these arguments whether moral, scientific, or both that provisional claims of truth emerge. However, all truth
claims, including scientific ones, are always open for dispute, modification, and/or refutation through the
development of strong alternative arguments. The irony of the conflation being described here is that a neo-
positivistic truth claim, which typically justifies its primacy based upon the assumed reliability of knowledge
established through scientific discourse, is actually, in this case, predicated on what appears to be a tautological
moral position of defining the presence of nonnative species as an inherent form of ecological harm (Sagoff 2005).
adaptive socio-ecological techniques that could be used to confront surprises posed by emergent
For both Ichetucknee River and Kings Bay, a likely implication of maintaining such a rigid
management framework towards nonnative species during this time of nutrient enrichment is a
continued shift towards stability domains characterized by increasing coverage of filamentous
algae and cyanobacteria. Qualitative research performed in both of these ecosystems indicates
that many stakeholders currently regard such a shift in stability domain to be more harmful than
increased coverage of nonnative plants. Increased monitoring, holistic evaluation of existing
aquatic plant control programs, and adaptive management experiments to better understand the
functional effects of alternative aquatic plant approaches are suggested for both ecosystems.
An increasing amount of natural resource management and social scientist theorists argue
that broad, interdisciplinary frameworks provide a means through which the many different
factors relevant to complex environmental problems can be methodologically explored,
effectively integrated, and coherently analyzed (Gunderson et al. 1995; Fischer 2000; Allen et al.
2003; Norton 2005). Such an integration of perspectives from both the natural and social
sciences helps bring focus onto the complex ways in which human culture interfaces with
nonhuman nature, thereby overcoming artificially sharp distinctions, both epistemological and
ontological, that often are made between the realms of nature and society (Sneddon et al. 2002).
Florida's springs ecosystems provide a clear opportunity for such interdisciplinary research
due to the wide range of geological, ecological, legal, political, and socio-moral issues associated
with their long-term management and conservation. Based upon this general premise, six specific
methodological and analytic obj ectives were established for this dissertation research:
1. To participate actively in two collaborative conservation groups: the Ichetucknee
Springs Water Quality Working Group and the Kings Bay Water Quality
2. To represent the targeted natural systems through basic maps and textual descriptions.
3. To outline the conservation problems facing the natural systems as typically defined in
4. To describe past and present ecosystem management actions taken by management
agencies within each of the case study systems.
5. To evaluate how conservation problems are being approached through ecosystem
management and policy.
6. To make specific research recommendations for facilitating adaptive management in
each of the case study systems.
The following research questions were then derived from these objectives:
1. Are the principles of adaptive management being utilized in the conservation and
management efforts within each of the case study springs?
a. What, if any, management practices may be inadvertently catalyzing observed
degradation in the natural systems?
b. How open are managers and stakeholders to new hypotheses about the behavior
of the natural systems?
2. What research and policy priorities can be identified for facilitating the emergence of
a. What gaps in current research and monitoring efforts can be identified?
The conceptual framework utilized for conceiving and addressing these research questions
is based upon three complementary foundations: the methodological principles of participatory
research, the analytic theories of systems ecology, and the normative criteria of adaptive
management. It was recognized from the outset of this proj ect that the stated obj ectives are
complicated in scope, fraught with a number of epistemological perils, and unable to address
completely the many different geologic, ecologic, legal, and socio-political factors that may be
relevant to springs protection. However, such difficulties are commonly associated with
interdisciplinary research on complex environmental problems that cover multiple temporal,
spatial, and epistemic scales. Following Sneddon et al. (2002, 666), an integrative approach was
adopted as a means for better understanding the "interplay between, on the one hand, physical
and ecological processes operating at certain scales and, on the other social processes that may
be constructed according to an entirely different scalar logic."
In this chapter, detailed explanations of the theoretical constructs underlying this
conceptual framework are developed. First, principles of participatory research are described,
problematized, and justified as an appropriate primary methodological approach for
understanding and confronting "wicked" problems that resist straightforward solutions based
upon existing ecosystem management paradigms (Fischer 2000). Second, principles of systems
ecology are presented as a holistic means by which information gathered from disparate
epistemological sources can be integrated into multi-scalar models and narratives, thereby
avoiding the traps of both crude reductionism and crude relativism. Third, it is argued that
principles of adaptive management, particularly as expounded by C.S. Holling, L.H. Gunderson,
and in a recent philosophical work by Bryan Norton (2005), provide clear epistemological,
discursive, and normative criteria by which ecosystem management can be both judged and
Participatory research has been described as research that goes beyond "an effort to come
up with research findings" through a conscious attempt to provide communities with information
that is directly relevant to the problems that they face (Fischer 2000, 180). While there currently
are a variety of competing schools and conceptions bundled under the general term participatory
research (Berardi 2002), a unifying thread is that it offers an alternative to "top-down"
approaches, particularly those "carried out within centralized bureaucracies," that tend to
privilege expertise from natural resource sciences and economics over local knowledge (Ferreyra
2006, 577). It is generally argued that such an alternative is needed because the complex, value-
laden, and particularized natures of socio-ecological systems make traditional forms of scientific
expertise an insufficient albeit useful and necessary basis for making many natural resource
management decisions (Sneddon et al. 2002; Norton 2005). Participatory research is thus
fundamentally based upon both understanding and empowering local ecological knowledge,
which can be defined as the informal forms of experiential knowledge and narrative accounts
developed by members of a community through long-term utilization and/or observation of a
given natural resource.
As such, the typical participatory research project is characterized by a "bottom up"
engagement with community members, who are viewed as co-equal partners in identifying,
defining, and attempting to iteratively solve complex socio-ecological problems (Berardi 2002).
As described by Fischer (2000, 179), the ongoing dialogue between researcher and the
community creates a dialectical tension between "formal academic knowledge" and the "popular
knowledge of ordinary citizens," which can then be used to "enrich the standard quantitative
analyses of efficient means to given ends with a qualitative discussion of the ends themselves."
In other words, participatory research helps provide alternative perspectives on the management
techniques employed to achieve established goals, while also giving a holistic means by which
evolving opinions about what goals should be pursued can be iteratively discussed. Such an
approach often implies interaction of diverse methodologies from fields such as geography,
anthropology, sociology, philosophy of science, and environmental science, with the overall
purpose being an integration of informal local knowledge into the formal processes of both
analytic research and policy-development.
Typologies of Participation
In recent years, there has been an accelerating trend towards approaches that outwardly
encourage public participation in ecosystem management and research, particularly through the
creation of cooperative watershed initiatives that utilize communication among stakeholder
groups as a key tool for gathering information and managing aquatic ecosystems on a watershed
basis (Briassoulis 1989; Norton 2005; Ferreyra 2006). Many cooperative watershed initiatives
originally arose on a grassroots level through coalitions of environmental organizations and other
community activists unsatisfied with the progress of agency bureaucracies in solving issues such
as dwindling water supply, deteriorating water quality, and preservation of local landscapes
(Wescoat and White 2003). However, agency bureaucracies themselves have also increasingly
moved to create collaborative forums, such as watershed working groups, in which a key stated
goal is participation among a wide range of stakeholders for the development of more robust
ecosystem management plans. Springshed working groups in Florida are examples of
collaborative watershed initiatives that are established and institutionally coordinated through
One result of the increasing utilization of the collaborative watershed approach has been
the "buzzword," hence often equivocal, usage of terms such as "collaborative," "participation,"
and "participatory" to describe ecosystem research and management activities. Critics argue that,
in some cases, creation of a collaborative watershed group and/or labeling of an ecosystem
management process as participatory may be little more than a formal statutory requirement, a
public relations attempt, or even a cooptation tactic that masks a bureaucracy's continued use of
traditional expert-based research models and centralized decision-making structures (Sneddon et
al. 2002). In other cases, however, the turn towards collaborative and participatory approaches
may, in fact, produce a reworking of power relations between the wider stakeholder community
and bureaucracies, which is actualized through the direct utilization of local knowledge in the
production of future expert knowledge and evaluation of management techniques (Berkes and
Folke 1998; Fischer 2000).
Berardi (2002) helps to clarify these definitional issues by giving fiye typologies to
describe different ways in which the term "participation" is currently used, both in terms of the
institutional framework in which a collaborative watershed group is organized as well as the
principles under which local knowledge is employed within the ecosystem management context.
First, "manipulative participation" is defined as an extreme situation in which participation is
used primarily as a pretense for manipulating or confusing the public with respect to a
controversial issue. Second, "participation by consultation" is defined as a condition, commonly
encountered within the context of regulatory and/or permitting deliberations, in which citizens
are consulted and questions are answered by officials, but there is no obligation to accept and/or
act upon public comment. Third, "functional participation" is used to describe those situations
where participation is seen by agencies as a means of achieving pre-determined, but generally
non-controversial, goals at reduced cost, often through the use of volunteer labor. Fourth,
"interactive participation" describes situations in which local citizen intimately participate in
research, development, analysis, and implementation of management plans. The fifth typology is
"self-mobilization," or a condition in which participation and/or formation of collaborative
frameworks is initiated from a grass roots level that is independent of government bureaucracies.
While the buzzword process has to some extent muddied the waters of what is meant by
participatory research, academic researchers have tended to bring confusion from another
direction: overly pedantic distinctions and arguments about what constitutes "authentic"
participatory research. The wide array of acronyms used for approaches such as participatory
rural appraisal and participatory rural assessment (PRA), participatory action research (PAR),
participatory learning and action (PLA), rapid rural appraisal (RRA), grass roots environmental
management (GREM), participatory forest resource assessment (PFRA), participatory analysis
and learning methods (PALM), and participant observation research (POR) underscores the
diversity of participatory approaches being employed by different researchers and research
teams. Although each research methodology has some differences that may be more appropriate
for specific situations, Berardi (2002) notes that there has been an unfortunate tendency among
some practitioners to turn a style of research originally focused on empowering community
change into a technical academic problem characterized by debates about who is really doing
participatory research, or what is the proper "brand" description of a participatory research
project (Argyris and Schon 1989; Bellamy et al. 1999).
Chambers (1997), however, sidesteps such academic squabbles by arguing that
participatory research ultimately is characterized by the underlying "attitude" of engaging
community stakeholders in the production and utilization of knowledge, rather than through
strict, ideological adherence to a given set of favored methods. Development of a relaxed rapport
with community members through participation in local activities and workshops, conducting
conversational interviews with key informants, use of "triangulation" in which observations are
confirmed from multiple perspectives, and assisting community members with the translation of
local knowledge into forms relevant for utilization within the management policy and research
context are cited as key features common to all participatory research approaches (Chambers
1997; Fischer 2000; Berardi 2002; Ferreyra 2006). A general use of such guidelines, not strict
adherence to any of the acronym approaches, was employed in both the Ichetucknee River and
Kings Bay/Crystal River case studies.
Participatory research for this dissertation was conducted by engaging with stakeholders in
three collaborative conservation groups: the Ichetucknee Springs Water Quality Working Group
(ISWG), the Kings Bay Water Quality Subcommittee (KBWQS), and the Kings Bay Working
Group (KBWG). While the term stakeholder is sometimes used to describe non-scientist, non-
agency, or other "non-expert" participants within a collaborative conservation process, a
stakeholder is more broadly defined in this dissertation to include all those who attended
meetings of the collaborative conservation groups, including research scientists, agency
scientists, and other government officials.
The ISWG is a stakeholder discussion group established in 1995 and funded through the
DEP. The maj or goals of the ISWG are to integrate knowledge about the Ichetucknee River,
educate the public about threats to the river' s water quality, and promote polices and voluntary
adoption of land use practices that can increase protection of water quality in the Ichetucknee
springshed. It includes representatives from environmental groups, agriculture and business
interests, all government agencies with jurisdiction in the Ichetucknee springshed, elected
officials, and other interested citizens. In 2005 and 2006, the ISWG met three times a year. I
attended at least some part of meetings held on February 15, 2005; May 24, 2005; October 1 1,
2005; February 8, 2006; and October 11, 2006. Due to a scheduling conflict, I did not attend a
meeting held on May 10, 2006.
The KBWQS is a stakeholder discussion group that advises the City of Crystal River on
policies related to improving water quality in Kings Bay, and is funded through grants provided
by the Waterfronts Florida Partnership of the DCA. Meetings were held monthly or, in some
cases, every other month. I attended ten meetings of the KBWQS from November 2004 through
March 2006: November 16, 2004; February 15, 2005; March 15, 2005; April 19, 2005; May 17,
2005; June 21, 2005; July 19, 2005; November 15, 2005; January 26, 2006; and March 15, 2006.
Core members of the KBWQS included a lead facilitator, a home builder, a restaurant owner, a
commercial fisher, a waterfront homeowner, a retired scientist from a federal environmental
agency, and two local vendors who cater to water-based tourism. Several meetings were attended
by one or more members of the Crystal River City Council, and two meetings included
presentations by representatives from government agencies with regulatory and management
jurisdiction over the Kings Bay water body. Stakeholder attendance, including myself, ranged
from four to sixteen at the meetings in which I was present. I gave a presentation about issues
associated with adopting a local fertilizer ordinance to the KBWQS on November 16, 2004,
which I gave as part of a course proj ect. I also gave a presentation showing examples of water
hyacinth phytoremediation and utilization to the KBWQS on January 26, 2006. By invitation of
the city manager, I gave a presentation about my work with the KBWQS and a review of recent
water hyacinth phytoremediation and utilization to the Crystal River City Council on June 26,
The KBWG is a stakeholder discussion group facilitated by the Southwest Florida Water
Management District. The maj or purposes of the KBWG are to integrate scientific knowledge
about Kings Bay, educate the public about voluntary actions that can be taken to improve water
quality, and achieve greater coordination between government agencies with management
jurisdiction over the water body. I attended KBWG meetings held on July 25, 2005; November
10, 2005; March 16, 2006; September 19, 2006; November 30, 2006; and March 7, 2007. I gave
a presentation about water hyacinth phytoremediation, utilization, and aquatic plant management
in Kings Bay to the KBWG at the meeting on November 10, 2005. I also gave a presentation to
the KBWG on November 30, 2006 about stormwater GIS mapping and landscaping outreach
work that I conducted in Sarasota over 2005-2006 through partnership with New College of
Florida, with a focus on benefits that a similar proj ect might have for Kings Bay/Crystal River.
Experiential knowledge formed through attendance at public meetings was used as a basis
for conversational interviews with key informants among stakeholders in both case study
ecosystems. The conduct of this interview research was based upon a protocol approved by the
University of Florida' s Institutional Review Board in April 2005. Key informants typically are
defined in qualitative research as those people who have intimate knowledge of the topic of
concern (i.e., conservation of the springs ecosystems), including holders of both informal local
knowledge and formal scientific knowledge (Ross et al. 1999). The key informants were
identified through "snowball" and "opportunistic" techniques, which commonly are used in
qualitative research for the purpose of locating members of the public likely to have a greater
knowledge of the topic of interest than the general public at large (Miles and Huberman 1994).
The snowball technique employed entailed soliciting nominations of knowledgeable individuals
from the lead facilitators of the ISWG and the KBWQS. Nominated individuals who participated
in the research then were asked for names of other knowledgeable individuals, with this process
repeated until at least 20 interviews were conducted. The opportunistic approach was used to
identify new key informants, particularly research and agency scientists met in public meetings,
not captured through the nominating process.
After potential interview informants were identified through either the snowball or
opportunistic approach, they were contacted by phone and/or e-mail and asked if they would be
willing to be interviewed for the purpose of dissertation research about the case study ecosystem.
If the potential informant agreed to be interviewed, a time and place was agreed upon for the
interview. Upon meeting the informant at the agreed upon time and place, a brief explanation of
the interview process was given. All informants then read and signed an informed consent form,
a copy of which is contained as an appendix in this dissertation. Field notes were taken during all
interviews, and a cassette tape recorder was used to record interviews of those who agreed to be
taped. Under the terms of the research protocol, all interview informants are kept strictly
anonymous in this dissertation.
The interview process utilized an open-ended, conversational approach to solicit
perceptions and information about conservation issues within the respective case study spring
system. All informants in both case studies were asked the following ten questions:
1. Please describe your career.
2. If you work for a government agency, please indicate your j ob title and the agency for
which you work.
3. Approximately what year did you first visit the spring system?
4. How close do you live to the spring system?
5. How often do you visit the spring system?
6. Why are you interested in conservation issues within the springs system?
7. Approximately what year did you become concerned about problems in the springs
8. Please describe your understanding of the problems currently facing the springs
9. Where did you learn about problems currently facing the springs system?
10. What do you think are the most important conservation and management issues within
the springs system today?
For both case studies, the overall purpose of this basic interview questionnaire was to
develop a richer historical understanding of changes in the ecological systems and stakeholder
perceptions about these changes. Follow up questions and comments were added in the flow of
conversation, generally to be sure that I adequately understood informational points given by the
informant and also to encourage informants to go in more detail about their specific
remembrances and knowledge.
As discussed in more detail in both chapters, scientific and policy discussions in springs
ecosystems are largely focused on the role of increased nutrients, particularly nitrate-nitrogen, in
causing ecological changes observed over time. Based upon this focus, most policy-making and
education efforts undertaken by agencies for the purpose of maintaining and/or restoring
ecological communities are hinged largely upon the achievement of significant nutrient load
reductions into the spring ecosystems. For the purpose of novel hypothesis development,
particular attention was given to those understandings and perceptions among local knowledge
holders found to be qualitatively different from those official accounts highlighted in scientific
and agency discourse.
In the Ichetucknee case study, an additional interview research component was included.
Using my own observations of the ecosystem taken while living and working on the river in
2000-2001 and a review of scientific data and literature, a hypothesized relationship between
increased algae growth recently observed in the system and manual eradication of water lettuce
(Pistia stratiotes) was described to informants. After presentation of this information, the
following questions were asked:
1. Have you previously been presented with information suggesting that there may be a
relationship between invasive plant management and proliferation of nuisance algae in
the springs system?
2. Based upon your knowledge and experience, do you believe that there is any merit to
the idea that invasive plant management may be linked to proliferation of nuisance
3. Do you think that the idea of invasive plant management being linked to proliferation
of nuisance algae should be investigated further by scientists?
4. Do you believe that ecosystem managers should consider modifying the ways in which
they manage invasive plants in the springs system?
Because my involvement in the KBWG was subsequent to the approval of the interview
protocol, informants for interview research were not selected from this stakeholder group.
Instead, my own participation and subsequent public communications with agency
representatives in the KBWG were utilized as a means of more deeply exploring how different
conceptions of nature and values affect dialogue in ecosystem management at Kings Bay,
particularly in relation to nonnative plant species. Public comments from KBWG members to the
formal presentation given at the meeting on November 10, 2005 were recorded by field notes,
and discussed in more detail on an individual basis through follow up e-mail communications.
An additional round of public comments about issues related to water hyacinth phytoremediation
in Kings Bay was solicited from all KBWG members through an e-mail communication sent on
April 28, 2006. The solicitation of comments in April 2006 was associated with publication of a
front page article and accompanying editorial about my research in the Citrus County Chronicle
(Hunter 2006a, 2006b), the maj or local newspaper for Crystal River and surrounding areas of
Citrus County. The genesis of the Chronicle stories apparently came when I sent draft copies of
my findings in Kings Bay/Crystal River to several stakeholders whose interview accounts were
relied upon heavily in the construction of the ecological change narrative contained in Chapter 4.
The explicit purpose for sending the draft to stakeholders was to ensure that the narrative
representations were an accurate reflection of the information they had provided, but an
unintended consequence of this "confirmation" exercise was that the draft text was "leaked" to
the Chronicle. I agreed to do an interview when contacted by the newspaper for further comment
on my work. Although the newspaper stories were unplanned and, arguably, premature in terms
of disseminating dissertation research Eindings among the wider public, nine public e-mail
responses about water hyacinth phytoremediation among government agencies were recorded as
a direct result of this process. These responses were catalogued, and excerpts are reported
anonymously in Chapter 4. The specific results of the participatory methods described in this
section are embedded within and qualitatively discussed in each respective case study.
A number of questions have been raised by critics, and even some practitioners, about the
obj activity and efficacy of participatory research methods. Perhaps the most fundamental charge
is that the up front commitment to utilize "value-laden" information gained through participatory
methods within the policy context can lead the researcher into a slippery slope of activism,
which, it is charged, inherently prevents the acquisition and transmission of reliable knowledge.
There are, however, two answers to this. First, some philosophers have noted that the prima facie
case against openly value-laden, and even activist, research can be dismantled through the
assertion of a straightforward distinction between "obj activity" and "neutrality" (Proctor 1991).
Through this distinction, obj activity is defined as the open search for reliable knowledge about
the world, while neutrality is defined as taking no normative position about a given condition of
the world. Thus, while the research and results of a participatory research proj ect may not be
neutral in the sense that specific positions are advanced through the inherently value-laden
discourse of ecosystem management, obj activity can still be maintained so long as any given
position is based upon interpretive reasoning that utilizes a transparent set of facts and defined
values (VanDeVeer and Pierce 2003).
A second line of defense is to question the very idea of any firm distinction between facts
and values in the conduct of the scientific enterprise (Norton 2005), particularly as characterized
within the politicized and uncertain context of complex environmental issues. For example,
Fischer (2000, 101) found that one of the "most important determinants" for characterizing the
different positions of scientists giving expert advice in the midst of complex environmental
issues are the moral commitments and institutional interests of the scientists. Such a relationship
appears to provide compelling empirical evidence of the interdependent, if unconscious,
relationship between facts and values in the production of scientific knowledge (Hays 1987).
When viewed in this way, it can be argued that participatory methods differ from traditional
expert discourse on environmental issues only because they consciously and, thereby, more
obj ectively bring this interdependence into the forefront of the research concern.
More problematic, however, are questions about the ultimate efficacy and/or usefulness of
participatory approaches in achieving the stated aim of producing meaningful and beneficial
socio-ecological changes. A number of researchers recently have utilized the rubric of
participation to generate models of inclusion and collaboration within the policy-making context,
and to identify the effects of these variables on the development of ecosystem management
plans. The results and conclusions of such studies are mixed, at best. For example, Brody (2003,
412) found that a wider breadth of participation in the development of local Comprehensive
Plans in Florida was not at all correlated with an increase in the protectiveness of ecosystems,
likely because the din of competing interests leads to a logic characterized by the "lowest
common denominator." Although Kellert et al. (2000, 709) did Eind success in meeting socio-
economic objectives through participatory approaches in both Alaska and Kenya, "conservation
and biodiversity protection goals" were significantly more difficult to achieve. The work by
Duram and Brown (1999) is more ambiguous in that participatory watershed planning across the
United States is not found to result in any significant improvement in environmental or social
conditions over other types of planning, although facilitators of watershed planning initiatives
generally believe that better participation does result in the production of better watershed plans.
However, Suman et al. (2000) concluded that the failure of the National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to foster public participation in the establishment of the
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary clearly had a negative effect on ecosystem
management, largely because the backlash of stakeholders angered at being excluded from the
management process eventually led to the weakening of regulations critically important for the
sustainable management of Esheries.
What these studies demonstrate is that while public participation may be increasingly
recognized as a necessary political component of successful ecosystem management programs
(Lovell et al. 2003), it is erroneous to assume that even the best implemented strategies of
participation and the emerging consensus resulting from participation will be sufficient to
achieve successful ecosystem management (Wescoat and White 2003). For example, there is the
possibility of consensual management plans emerging that are not consistent with long-term
protection and/or restoration of environmental resources simply because the respective users
and/or managers of the resource determine that other political or economic values are more
important than environmental conservation. Alternatively, consensual plans for managing
environmental resources may fail because the participatory consensus and eventual plan
implementation are based upon fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamics of the targeted
As Fischer (2000, 33) writes, the recognition of such limitations within participatory
approaches is often used in support of the traditional argument that experts alone have "the
knowledge and skills needed to render the competent decisions required for effective social
guidance" in solving environmental problems. In this view, wider participation, as suggested by
Brody's (2003) work, offers little more than simplistic, self-serving information of little use for
tackling inherently complex issues over which the general public has little, if any, technical
But several interrelated answers can be given to this challenge. First, as suggested above,
there is the empirical evidence that expert discourses and scientific experts are not immune from
getting locked into simplistic, myopic, and even self-serving lines of reasoning, particularly
when deliberations and decisions about complex ecological issues are made in an insulated, non-
transparent, and/or mechanical fashion. Following from this is an argument based upon
democratic theory, which, as summarized by Grudens-Schuck (2000, 82), suggests that
participation goes beyond the goal of "producing smarter outcomes" and, instead, finds its
ultimate justification in an ethic of democratically respecting "people's accounts of the world" in
the process of open argumentation. A final epistemological justification for participatory
research is that, ideally, it helps to facilitate convergence between local expertise and scientific
expertise, thereby producing emergent forms of socio-ecological understanding that would not
have been achieved through strict reliance on traditional scientific methods (Fischer 2000;
Confronting Wicked Problems
The term "wicked problem" is often used to describe those problems that defy solution,
and often times become measurably worse, through traditional problem-solving tools,
particularly those locked within a narrow disciplinary perspective. Wicked problems are often
contrasted with what are called "benign problems." While benign problems can be exceptionally
complex, such as completion of a higher-level mathematical proof or construction of a
skyscraper, experience shows that these problems, as defined, can be reliably solved through a
given technical method. Environmental problems often are given as archetypal examples of
wicked problems, generally because most environmental issues are associated with, and cross,
many different boundaries of natural science, economics, politics, and human values. This
inherent interdisciplinarity has the effect of preventing resolution of many environmental
problems through prescribed technical approaches. Indeed, many environmental issues even defy
any sort of consensual statement about what the problem actually is due to incomplete
information, multiple analytic variables, and changeable, conflicting values. A key virtue of an
interdisciplinary, participatory approach is the explicit focus on both diagnosing those wicked
problems that may lie at the heart of a given environmental problem, and on utilizing the
dialectic between local knowledge and expert knowledge to develop novel lines of analysis that
can be used as the basis for experimentally confronting some aspects of the wicked problem
Participatory methods in this dissertation are utilized in this dialectic spirit, in the sense
that local knowledge gained through attendance of public meetings, stakeholder interviews, and
direct observation of natural systems is not uncritically valorized as a panacea for solving the
wicked problems of ecosystem management in the two case studies. Rather, local knowledge
obtained through participatory methods is combined with expert knowledge obtained through a
review of scientific literature and application of systems ecology principles, resulting in the
construction of alternative ecological hypotheses and management scenarios relevant for both
further exploring and, ideally, experimentally confronting the wicked problems of ecological
change in springs ecosystems.
Environmental science and management can be loosely characterized by two streams of
thought and inquiry. The first stream is a reductionist "science of parts" in which "a narrow
enough focus is chosen to pose hypotheses, collect data, and design critical tests for the rej section
of invalid hypotheses." The other is an interdisciplinary "science of the integration of parts" that
"combines historical, comparative, and experimental approaches at scales appropriate to the
issues" (Holling 1995, 12-13). This second stream of thought is commonly referred to as the
science of systems.
Odum (1994, 4) defines a system as "a group of parts that are interacting according to
some kind of process," with "new properties 'emerging' from the interactive combination of
parts." A basic premise behind systems ecology is that the properties that "emerge" from the
interactions of constituent parts in any given ecological system are more functionally and
structurally complex than the simple sum of the parts. Systems ecology typically utilizes the
findings of reductionist science to build models that simulate linkages and identify emergent
properties, ultimately attempting to reveal causal processes that underlie "the complexity of time
and space behavior of complex systems" (Holling 1995, 13). Computer simulations that track
material and energy flows implied by modeled relationships are a key tool utilized by systems
ecologists for better understanding the behavior of ecosystems. More broadly, the use of systems
thinking can be used to help to facilitate the identification of knowledge gaps, development of
new hypotheses, and institution of integrated evaluative methods for better understanding the
effects of human actions on the structure and function of environmental systems. By extension,
the iterative models and theories of systems ecology provide an important tool by which logical
and interpretive reasoning about the interplay between moral values, management choices, and
ecological conditions can be deepened (Lovell et al. 2003).
Scales are defined the spatial and temporal dimensions associated with ecological and
social processes. Systems ecologists consider different scales to have characteristic orders of
analytic magnitude in both spatial extent and turnover time, or the time it takes for the system to
replace itself (Lovell et al. 2003). A basic premise behind systems ecology is that phenomena of
the world operate within and among a diverse range of analytic scales, and that robust models
should therefore "include all scales pertinent to the phenomena of interest" (Odum and Odum
2000, 14). The iterative process of relating the "transcending concepts that link processes and
actors at different levels in time and space" is often referred to as "scaling" (Lovell et al. 2003,
One of the biggest challenges in the management of ecosystems is the common tendency
of researchers and management agencies to become "stuck" within one scale of analysis (Holling
1995). As Odum and Odum write,
There is a tendency, through long habit and the desire to simplify, to concentrate on
models of one scale. No scale is more basic than another, but people concentrating their
work think of their scale as special. However, limiting the scale of view limits
understanding, because every scale is part of the scale above and composed of the smaller
scaled items below. We cannot understand one scale without studying its relation to that
above and below (2000, 14).
An implication of scalar logic is that the results of a study that focuses on one scale in a
particular socio-ecological system will tend to be radically different from another study of that
same system that focuses on a different scale of analysis, meaning that choices about what
variables and scales are monitored ultimately have profound effects about the ways in which
knowledge about an ecosystem is both produced and interpreted (Norton 2005). With these
scaling issues in mind, participatory research with stakeholders emerges as having critical
linkages with system ecology in that it provides a means of both gathering information that
transcends scales of analysis normatively established through the oftentimes insular paradigms of
management institutions, and focusing new analyses onto those scales in which there is broader
social consensus that a problem exists (Gunderson 1999; Fischer 2000; Norton 2003).
Utilization of a narrative style is often used as a mechanism for integrating and analyzing
information collected across multiple scales of analysis (Berardi 2002; Sneddon et al. 2002;
Allen et al. 2003; Norton 2003). The stylistic approach adopted for both case studies in this
dissertation is deemed as "multi-scalar narrative." Multi-scalar is a term that denotes that the
research traverses a variety of different temporal, spatial, and ontological scales of analysis,
while the narrative form describes the packaging of the various scalar analyses into a unified
socio-ecological "story" interwoven with different empirical, theoretical, and moral
Most generally, narratives are the means by which humans communicate throughout the
bounded limits of language, perception, and imagination. Narratives have been said to comprise
"the quintessential form of customary knowledge" (Lyotard 1984, 19), "the banisters of ethical
life" (Thiele 1999, 9), and the fabric by which behavior, communication, and intellectual inquiry
are framed within shared discursive communities (Roling and Maarleveld 1999). All metaphors,
myths, fictional stories, historical accounts, scientific theories, institutional worldviews, and
philosophical axioms are thus narratives in the sense that all of these communicate a particular
story and/or account about some aspect of the world (Roling and Maarleveld 1999). Thus, Allen
et al. (2003, 232) suggest that narratives about complex environmental problems provide "a
serial arrangement for events that are very differently scaled" in ways that are consonant with
both "the human experience and the way humans remember and reflect on their experience."
From a systems perspective, narratives might be characterized as both an emergent property of
language and an organizing principle for epistemological, moral, economic, and political
constructs within human societies.
Less abstractly, systems ecology principles can provide the framework by which diverse
forms of data from "hard data," such as water quality, to "soft data" such as experiential
anecdotes can be integrated into iterative models, which then form the basis of testable
hypotheses about ecological behavior. In both case studies of this dissertation, a review of
scientific literature, communication with local and scientific experts, water quality data, and
personal observations are used to provide the foundation for the creation of aggregated
ecological systems diagrams (Odum 1994; Odum and Odum 2000), GIS maps, and rich textual
descriptions that generally characterize the hydrogeology and ecosystem structure. In addition,
management and ecological histories of the systems are constructed through a review of the
natural systems literature, policy literature, and interviews with public officials and long-time
local users of the systems. At both Ichetucknee and Kings Bay it was found that the ecological
dynamic currently commanding most social concern is an apparent shift in stability domain
towards increased dominance by filamentous algae and cyanobacteria. Therefore, the multi-
scalar narratives ultimately are organized around a description of various socio-ecological factors
thought to be driving the shift in stability domain, along with a presentation of the various
ecological, societal, and institutional pressures that currently constrain and/or prevent an
effective response to the emergent ecological conditions.
The term adaptive management is commonly used to describe the development of systems
approaches for the management of natural resources. The ideas behind adaptive management
were initially developed as a means of better managing forests and fisheries through the use of
systems ecology models and monitoring regimes that could be used to facilitate iterative
management and policy adjustments (Holling 1978), but have been greatly expanded in scope
and applied over a wide variety of ecological, social, and institutional settings (Wescoat and
The inherent uncertainty characterizing humans' ability to understand and predict the
behavior of natural resource systems is a key component of adaptive management. From this
recognition emerges the following six principles that underlie adaptive management: 1) natural
resources always change due to both human management actions and the inherent stochasticity
of nature; 2) some of these changes will be quite surprising; 3) new management uncertainties
are bound to emerge from these surprises; 4) all management policies should be treated as
experiments from which new observations, hypotheses, and knowledge about the managed
resource can be developed; 5) management policies should be continuously modified to reflect
newly understood realities within the managed resource; and 6) local citizens should be
intimately involved as partners in building basic knowledge and future goals for better managing
the resource, not just informed passively about agency actions through public information
programs (Holling 1995; Berkes and Folke 1998; Kiker et al. 2001; Norton 2005). The creation
of new ecological, social, and institutional understandings through the application of these
principles is often called "adaptive learning," while the socio-scientific feedbacks between
adaptive learning and the development of new management plans to reflect the new
understandings are often referred to as the "adaptive cycle" (Gunderson et al. 1995).
Proponents of adaptive management have found that failure to manage natural resources
with the recognition of inherent uncertainty in ecological systems and to adjust to this
uncertainty through adaptive learning may often be directly responsible for the destruction of the
very resource that managers are attempting to conserve and control. Situations in which static
institutional paradigms and assumptions within the applied management of a targeted natural
resource lead directly to the collapse of that same system have been termed "management
pathologies." Holling's (1995) work suggests that management pathologies often result when
management institutions achieve initial success in controlling a single target variable within an
ecosystem. This initial success then generally results in a subsequent focus on increasing the
operational efficiency of management operations, while efforts to monitor the ecosystem for
other changes are lessened or even discontinued over time. The result of such narrow
management, Holling (1995) argues, is often an unnoticed homogenization of critical
components within the ecosystem, which consequently results in decreasing resilience within the
ecological community. This decrease in resilience is suggested to then make the ecosystem much
more likely to be unexpectedly "flipped" into a state of persistent degradation by the kinds of
disturbances that could have been previously absorbed.
A maj or analytic goal of this dissertation was to identify and describe different types of
management pathologies that may exist within the two case studies. Ecological hypotheses
relevant to ecosystem management were developed integrating available scientific data,
stakeholder and personal observations, and scientific literature. While it is believed that these
models do represent important ecological relationships, it was not intended or proposed that
these ecological hypotheses would be tested using experimental, statistical, or other formal
means for this dissertation research. Such testing involved time scales and resources that were
beyond the scope of this proj ect. Instead, the process of hypothesis development in this proj ect
was viewed as a participatory contribution to the adaptive cycle (e.g., Woodhill and Roling
1998), with formal management experimentation contingent upon the interest, collaboration, and
resources of relevant stakeholder groups and/or regulatory agencies.
As Holling (1995, 13) argues, in an adaptive management framework there is considerably
"more concern that a useful hypothesis might be rej ected than that a false one might be
accepted." Thus, how ecosystems managers respond to hypotheses about ecological behavior
suggested by stakeholders becomes a variable of considerable interest when evaluating the social
capacity of adaptive learning, particularly when such hypotheses directly challenge the
assumptions of entrenched institutional and research paradigms (Douthwaite et al. 2003).
Habermas' s (1995, 44) influential principle of "communicative rationality" suggests that a
precursor to the emergence of morally and rationally legitimate solutions to difficult problems
involving a multitude of different interests is the presence of an "ideal speech situation" in which
all rational stakeholders are able to participate in deliberations that "result in agreement through
argumentation on practical questions" (see also Roling and Maarleveld 1999). Using Habermas's
(1995) criterion, the rej section of any well-reasoned hypothesis by managers would be socially
legitimate so long as it was based upon procedures of open and rational debate, but would be
illegitimate if based upon communicative restrictions or other modes of coercion that prevent
stakeholders from reaching a truly informed consensus. Under Holling' s (1995) stronger
adaptive management criteria, legitimate rej section would be contingent upon scientific studies
that clearly disprove a reasonable hypothesis.
Norton (2005), through the development of what he calls methodological naturalism, offers
a very detailed explication and philosophical defense of the position that the process of
hypothesis development in an adaptive management framework goes beyond natural science, and
enters into social processes of argumentation. This implies an "ongoing search for coalitions and
consensuses by studying actual citizens and stakeholder groups that participate in actual
processes in actual situations," with adaptive management emerging out of those deliberative
processes that regard no a priori principles, whether scientific or normative, as unchallengeable
(Norton 2005, 206). Experiences, values, data, and arguments can all be freely entered into the
wider discursive community, and, crucially, it is within those areas in which fundamental
disagreements are found between the interpretations of participants that scientific
experimentation is squarely aimed.
Through this process of shifting towards "an active experimental science of management"
policies become justified or discarded through the validation of shared experience, rather than
through arguments "about the correctness of general theories of value" (Norton, 208). As facts
emerge, Norton (2005, 210) continues, assumptions once comfortably held often are discarded as
"new and disturbing questions" are raised about the overall implications of these assumptions.
Using the criteria of Norton (2005) and Holling (1995), it can thus be deduced that management
pathologies may often emerge from an ecosystem management context in which a priori
principles stultify the discussion and, ultimately, testing of useful hypotheses put forth by
members of a discursive community engaged in a collaborative conservation process. This
principle of discourse provides the foundation for which participatory methods and systems
ecology can be used to make judgments about principles such as flexibility, open evaluation,
experimentation, and learning characteristic of an adaptive management process.
Located near the town of Ft. White and forming the southernmost border between
Columbia and Suwannee counties, the Ichetucknee River is an approximately five mile long
spring-fed stream that discharges into the Santa Fe River with an average daily flow of 233 mgd.
The upper three miles and all eight maj or spring groups of the river are located within the
boundaries of Ichetucknee Springs State Park (ISSP), a designated National Natural Landmark
commonly described as one of the Florida State Park Service' s "crown j ewels" due to its
outstanding natural beauty. ISSP is a highly popular recreational area that annually attracts about
150,000 visitors, almost all of whom engage in river-based activities such as tubing, canoeing,
snorkeling, and diving. These visitors are thought to generate approximately $2 million in annual
economic activity in the rural area surrounding the park (Ichetucknee Springs Water Quality
Working Group 2000).
Ecologists, biologists, and other naturalists have long noted that the Ichetucknee River,
similar to other spring-fed rivers in Florida, supports a highly productive, diverse, and unique
aquatic ecosystem. The river's clear water historically has provided ideal conditions for a rich
submersed aquatic plant community composed of tape grass (Vallisneria amnericana), eel grass
(Sagittaria kurziana), water primrose (Luakuigia repens), two-leaf water milfoil (M~yriophylhtna
heterophyllunt), musk grass (Chara spp.), and several other less common species. A large variety
of aquatic invertebrates, fish, turtles, birds, and mammals are also found in the Ichetucknee
River, including rare, threatened, and endangered species such as wood storks (M~ycteria
amnericana), limpkins (Ara~nus guarauna), American beavers (Castor canadensis), Suwannee
sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi), and West Indian manatees (Trichecus nzanatus). In
addition, the Ichetucknee River ecosystem contains at least one endemic species, the Ichetucknee
silt snail (Cincinnatia mica), which has a range that is entirely restricted to the small Coffee
In recent years, the ecological condition of the Ichetucknee River has been characterized
by increased growth of filamentous green and blue green algae (e.g., Vaucheria sp. Sprirogyra
sp., Oscillatoria sp., Lyngbya sp.) (Stevenson et al. 2004). The observed expansion of algal
biomass is widely regarded by ecosystem managers, scientists, and local citizens as having
negative impacts on the river's ecological communities and recreational appeal. Some of the
more commonly cited effects include smothering and even complete displacement of submersed
aquatic plants by algae, significant declines of aquatic fauna such as spring run crayfish
(Procamnbarus sp.) and loggerhead musk turtles (.Sillinotheins/ minor) (Ritchie 2006), and a
general loss of aesthetic beauty associated with the "slimy" appearance of the algal growth.
Highly publicized suggestions that contact with algae may be the cause of skin rashes and other
allergic reactions developed by swimmers at ISSP in the past several years have further
heightened the level of concern (Bruno 2004; Pittman 2006). It is widely suspected that
increased concentrations of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-) in discharged spring water are the primary
cause of the ecological changes observed in the Ichetucknee River (Ringle 1999; Bruno 2004), as
well as many other springs ecosystems throughout Florida (Jones et al. 1996; Florida Springs
Task Force 2000).
In this chapter, a social history and ecological narrative of the Ichetucknee River is
developed using published historical and scientific literature, scientific monitoring data, and
information gathered from communications with local citizens and agency officials. While
acknowledging that anthropogenic contamination of groundwater is a fundamental driving force
behind recent ecological changes documented in the river, it is argued that scientific studies
indicate that conservation strategies based solely upon reduction of nitrate-nitrogen are unlikely
to significantly reduce algae growth in the river in the foreseeable. Field note observations and a
review of scientific literature are then utilized to develop a systems model suggesting that
management activities associated with eradication of water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) may have
exacerbated the recent shift towards algae dominance and loss of aquatic fauna in the ecosystem.
Discussions with citizen stakeholders, agency officials, and non-agency scientists in formal
interviews and public communications are then used as a means of exploring ways in which
normative and scientific disagreements associated with aquatic plant control are handled within
the ecosystem management context. Based upon these discussions, it is argued that institutional
rigidities associated with a priori attribution of harm to targeted plant species currently prevent
the types of scientific evaluation and open public discussion of ecosystem management
experiments that are necessary for adaptive learning. A holistic program of ecosystem response
monitoring, pilot experiments to test the effects of "reintroducing" contained water lettuce mats
into some areas of the river currently characterized by algal overgrowth, and periodic
communication and reevaluation of aquatic plant management techniques in public forums are
suggested as ways of introducing principles of adaptive learning into the management of water
lettuce in the Ichetucknee River.
The Ichetucknee River has a rich archaeological and historical heritage dating back over
12,000 years, when the first humans arrived and settled in Florida. Early human tools made of
elephant ivory and high concentrations of bones from a large variety of Pleistocene animals have
been found in the Ichetucknee, providing some of the most important archaeological and
paleontological evidence that arriving humans likely played a determinate role in the extirpation
of North American mega-fauna (Milanich 1998). Despite the presumably quite severe socio-
ecological disruptions caused by the extinction of these animals, the archaeological record
suggests that the Ichetucknee River area was occupied and utilized by human cultures on an
almost continuous basis throughout the subsequent millennia.
Spanish Invasion (1539 1708)
An account by Milanich and Hudson (1993) indicates that Spanish conquistador Hernando
de Soto encountered Aguacaleyquen, a large village of indigenous Timucuan people with
bountiful agricultural resources, located near the Ichetucknee River in 1539. It is well-known and
documented that the Spanish invasion and subsequent settlement of Florida over the next several
decades had catastrophic effects on the Timucuan people, including those of Aguacaleygquen. In
1608, a Franciscan mission, San Martin, was founded at a site near Ichetucknee's Mission
Springs for the purpose of "Christianizing" the area' s surviving Timucuan people (Milanich
1998). The San Martin site is believed to have been abandoned or destroyed between the years of
1660 1675 due to rebellions by remaining Timucuan people (Worth 1992). Another mission,
called Santa Catalina, was built north of the San Martin site in approximately 1675, but was
destroyed by a confederation of Yamassee Indians and English colonial forces in 1685 (Milanich
and Hudson 1993). By the early 18th century, the Timucuan culture in Florida had effectively
vanished due to rampant warfare and disease (Milanich 1998).
Seminole Period (1708 1845)
Soon after the disappearance of the Timucua, Creek tribes began to permanently migrate
into Florida and came to be collectively referred to as the Seminoles (Milanich 1998). While
little is known about Seminole utilization of the Ichetucknee area, it is believed that the word
"Ichetucknee" was derived from a series of Creek words that loosely translate to "beaver pond"
(Simpson 1956). The American army outpost of Ft. White (located on the banks of the Santa Fe
River and several miles to the west of the present town of Ft. White) was established in 183 8
during the initial phases of the second Seminole War (Keuchel 1981). Written records from the
second Seminole War period provide the earliest documentation of the term "Ichetucknee River"
being used (Simpson 1956).
American Settlement and Development (1845 1940)
Florida became a state in 1845, soon after the conclusion of the second Seminole War.
Although little is known about the settlement of the Ichetucknee area from statehood through the
American Civil War period, several letters written by Ambrose Hart, an American settler who
lived on a plantation near the Ichetucknee, do provide valuable insight into years immediately
after the Civil War. Hart describes drying figs, eating fresh peaches at the plantation, and hunting
plentiful game in the rich "hummock" lands surrounding the Ichetucknee River (Herring 1994).
The river and its springs are described by Hart as being "clear as crystal" (Herring 1994; 39).
More intensive land use activities began to occur in the Ichetucknee area around 1890,
with phosphate mining and intensive logging of virgin timber along the river and in surrounding
uplands (Behnke 2003). The Dutton Phosphate Company acquired land surrounding the
Ichetucknee River around 1900, and used convict labor to hand extract phosphate rocks from
several small mines in the area from 1900 to 1920 (Herring 1994). The bases of cut cypress and
several depression features from abandoned phosphate mines in areas along and near the river
are obvious artifacts of this logging and mining era. In 1920, Loncala Phosphate Company
purchased from Dutton the 2,241 acres that later became ISSP (Behnke 2003). Mining activities
ceased soon after the Loncala purchase, largely due to the discovery of more highly concentrated
and extensive phosphate deposits in central Florida's Bone Valley district (Herring 1994).
Early Socio-Ecological Accounts (1940 1960)
Perhaps the first detailed descriptions of the Ichetucknee River from an ecological
perspective come from the famed Florida-based naturalist, Archie Carr. Carr first visited the
Ichetucknee in the 1940s, in a time that he describes as "before tubing; before the Crackers
starting storming up the spring runs in boats with ten-horse Johnsons; before Cousteau perfected
his first scuba regulator a time so far back that the face mask which I saw the things I told of
was only a circle of window pane in a headpiece cut from an inner tube" (1994, 60-61). Over
several pages in the book A Naturalist in Florida: A Celebration ofEden, Carr gives vivid,
literary descriptions of biota he observed in the Ichetucknee using this crude diving mask. A
colorful underwater landscape formed by aquatic plants such as elodea (Philotria densa), musk
grass (called stonewort by Carr), and eel grass is described, as are unusual fish such as the
endemic Suwannee bass (M~icropterus notius), hogchoker (Trinectes maculata), and a freshwater
pipefish (Syngna~thllinuel sp.) (Carr 1994). It is also reported that Carr enjoyed catching crayfish in
the Ichetucknee throughout the 1940s, and later described the crayfish population as sometimes
being from "wall to wall in the springs" (Ichetucknee Springs Basin Working Group 2006).
Similar to Archie Carr' s accounts are a series of "old-timer" remembrances of the
Ichetucknee River given by Behnke (2003). Crystal clear water, lush vegetation, bountiful fish,
incredibly large concentrations of crayfish, and a wide variety of ducks, reptiles, and amphibians
are all recalled in years spanning from 1925 to 1960. The river was also described as a center for
cultural activities such as baptisms, recreation, and family gatherings (Behnke 2003). Less
wholesome stories such as cars being driven into the river, common use of dynamite to catch
fish, and bulldozing of sediments and other land clearing debris directly into the river are also
recalled (Behnke 2003).
Mass Recreation (1960 1980)
In about 1960, the Ichetucknee was "discovered" by students from the University of
Florida located approximately 40 miles away in Gainesville (Behnke 2003). The river
reportedly was used by a large number of students as a weekend partying retreat throughout the
1960s, and, over time, these unrestricted recreational activities came to be associated with large
amounts of accumulated litter, rampant vandalism, and public drunkenness. There are also
consistent reports that some local people and/or Loncala officials, upset by the impact of the
student crowds, attempted to stop the flow of the river by loading large amounts of cement and
other debris into the Ichetucknee Head Spring area throughout the 1960s (Behnke 2003).
Although the spring was not stopped entirely, the accumulated debris did change the appearance
of the Head Spring area and may have significantly restricted discharge. In recent years, much of
this debris from the Head Spring has been removed through sustained volunteer clean up efforts
sponsored by ISSP.
In 1970, Loncala sold its 2,241 acre tract of land surrounding the upper three miles of the
Ichetucknee River to the State of Florida, which then developed and opened today's ISSP.
Although the advent of state management in the early 1970s quickly curtailed the party
atmosphere and led to the clean up of most accumulated litter, it soon became apparent to
managers and scientists that the throngs of visitors who came to tube and swim in the new park
were severely impacting the river' s aquatic plant community.
DuToit (1979) utilized detailed monitoring and experimental work to quantify the severe
impact of existing recreational activities on aquatic vegetation and faunal communities. This
study represents the first extensive ecological study available on the river, and is important for
several reasons. First, detailed accounts of submersed macrophyte coverage are given for 1977-
1978, with explicit measures for cover and standing crop bio-mass given. Second, a faunal
survey including mollusks, arthropods, and fish was also taken. Although the faunal surveys are
less detailed than the floral studies, they do correlate faunal decline with floral decline related to
recreational overuse. This ecological methodology was then used to determine a recreational
"carrying capacity" approach for both minimizing damage and allowing adequate time for
aquatic plants to recover.
Ecological Recovery (1980 1990)
ISSP quickly followed DuToit' s (1979) recommendations by establishing daily and
seasonal carrying capacities along various sections of the river in the early 1980s. The most
restrictive carrying capacity of 750 daily swimmers and tubers in summer months (between
Memorial Day and Labor Day) and a closed season for the remainder of the year is established
from a launch area immediately down river of the Head Spring to the Mid-Point dock, located
just past Mill Pond Spring. A less restrictive carrying capacity of 3,000 per day and no closed
season is established for the river reach from the Mid-Point dock to another dock referred to as
Dampier' s Landing. No limits are enforced for the river below Dampier' s Landing.
Several individuals interviewed for this dissertation report that the aquatic plant
community quickly recovered after the institution of the recreational carrying capacity -
observations that are supported by bi-annual scientific monitoring studies conducted by ISSP
(Hand 2006) and other accounts (Taylor 2002). Attracted by the river' s natural beauty, many
local artists and hobby naturalists began to visit the Ichetucknee River ecosystem in the early to
mid 1980s, and a popular lore referring to the Ichetucknee as "the most pristine river" in Florida
took hold as images of the river were produced and widely distributed. Time series photographs
of the eel grass community in Devil's Eye Spring run during the 1980s and early 1990s (Figure
3-2A, 3-2B, and 3-2C), provided by Melrose artist Johnny Dame, give an interesting
documentary reference of ecological conditions during this time. According to Dame, and as
indicated in the pictures, the aquatic plant community at Devil's Eye was characterized by dense
growth of submersed eel grass and a changeable fringe of water lettuce interspersed with other
emergent vegetation along the banks of the spring run throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Water Quality Concerns and Springshed Research
Beginning in the early 1990s, indications of ecological change apparently unrelated to
recreational impacts, such as increased coating of submersed plants by large strands of
filamentous algae, were detected by scientists, managers, and other concerned citizens. State
officials indicate that algal accumulations were first noticed within the Mission Springs run and
nearby areas (Ringle 1999). In 1995, mounting concern associated with the algal growth and
suspicion that declining water quality discharged from the springs was responsible for the
observed ecological changes led to the formation of the Ichetucknee Springs Water Quality
Working Group (Working Group), which has spearheaded most conservation and research
efforts in the river and its springshed since that time.
The Working Group is a stakeholder discussion group composed of representatives from
environmental groups, agriculture and business interests, all government agencies with
jurisdiction in the Ichetucknee springshed, elected officials, and other interested citizens. The
stated purposes of the Working Group are essentially five-fold: 1) consolidate all research about
the river and springshed developed by different agencies and scientists; 2) identify gaps in
existing data and knowledge; 3) facilitate and coordinate studies for gathering new knowledge;
4) effectively communicate all gathered knowledge to local policy-makers and other
stakeholders; and 5) foster a sense of community stewardship that encourages citizens,
businesses, and governments to voluntarily adopt land use practices that better protect
groundwater resources. Facilitation and formal meetings of the Working Group are funded
through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), while the research,
monitoring, and outreach activities presented to the Working Group are supported through DEP
and a wide variety of other government agency, non-profit, and private sources.
Significant improvements in the understanding of the Ichetucknee springshed' s hydrology
have been made through research proj ects promoted through the Working Group process. Cave
diving and dye trace studies in sinkholes south of Lake City that serve as the primary outfall for
three creeks Rose Creek, Clay Hole Creek, and Cannon Creek have convincingly shown that
these sinkholes are hydrologically connected to the Ichetucknee River' s maj or springs through
large conduit systems, sometimes described as "underground rivers," in the limestone of the
upper Floridan aquifer (Butt and Murphy 2003). An important implication of these studies is that
the "creek to sink" systems, all of which are plagued by stormwater contamination from urban
and agricultural sources in the Lake City area, directly affect the water quality of both the
Ichetucknee River and domestic drinking wells. A recent state land purchase and retrofit
construction of a stormwater retention pond at Rose Creek sink near Columbia City were
expressly undertaken for the purpose of better protecting the groundwater sources leading into
the Ichetucknee River.
The Working Group has also attracted much public attention to elevated levels of
groundwater nitrate-nitrogen (Ringle 1999; Ritchie 2006), which is widely cited as the primary
suspected cause of increased algae growth and other ecological changes observed in the
Ichetucknee River and other Florida springs (Jones et al. 1996; Florida Springs Task Force
2000). Recent nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in the Ichetucknee River average between 0.5 1.0
mg/L, or approximately 10 20 times over the estimated historic "background" concentrations
of 0.05 0. 1 mg/L (Florida Springs Task Force 2000). Porous overlying soils, lack of clay
confining layers, and large number of sinkholes with direct groundwater connections together
make the upper Floridan aquifer in the Ichetucknee springshed extremely vulnerable to nitrate-
nitrogen contamination (Katz et al. 1999).
Maj or identified sources of nitrate-nitrogen contamination are as follows: fertilizers
applied in agricultural fields and domestic landscapes, disposal of animal and human wastewater
effluents in spray fields and septic tank drain fields, emissions from fossil fuel combustion, and
land-clearing/deforestation that decreases the amount of soluble nitrogen absorbed by plants and
other organisms in surface soil layers (Jones et al. 1996). Efforts to reduce nitrate-nitrogen
loading into the Ichetucknee springshed include pursuit of funds to finance sewage treatment and
process upgrades for Lake City's municipal sewage treatment facility; expansion of sewage
service to areas currently served by septic tank systems; encouragement of stricter septic tank
performance and maintenance standards for homes and businesses located outside of the
municipal service area; and outreach to promote voluntary reductions in fertilizer usage by
homeowners, farmers, and landscaping professionals.
Uncertain Science: Nitrate-Nitrogen and Algae Response in Springs Ecosystems
Despite the attention given to water quality improvement at the Ichetucknee River since
the early 1990s, media reports (Bruno 2004; Ritchie 2006) and scientific data (Hand 2007)
indicate that the problem of nuisance algal growth continues to spread at an increasing rate
throughout the ecosystem. A consistent message given in media reports, suggested by many
members of the Working Group, and reported by most individuals interviewed for this research
is that "rising nitrate-nitrogen" is primarily to blame for these changes. Accompanying this
characterization is an apparent assumption that decreased concentrations of nitrate-nitrogen in
the river would be expected to reduce growth of nuisance algae, thereby leading to the recovery
of desirable submersed plants and aquatic fauna.
These cause-effect characterizations about nitrate-nitrogen contamination and algal growth
are a fundamental driving factor in environmental policy discussions focused heavily on
reducing nitrate-nitrogen loading into springsheds for the purpose of protecting springs
ecosystems (DCA and DEP 2002). While reduction of nitrate-nitrogen loading or any other
human contaminant into groundwater may be inherently worthwhile from the perspective of
improving water quality, an obj ective look at recent data trends and scientific studies for
Ichetucknee and other Florida springs ecosystems suggests two interrelated points: 1) nitrate-
nitrogen may not offer a sufficient explanation for ongoing increases of nuisance algae growth;
and 2) reductions of this nutrient may not necessarily result in a corresponding reduction of
A review of water quality data in the Ichetucknee River obtained from the DEP (Hand
2006) helps to introduce these points. While long-term data (Figure 3-4) do clearly show that a
dramatic upward trend in the river's nitrate-nitrogen concentrations historically occurred from
mid 1960s through the mid 1980s, the data in Figure 3-5 suggest that ambient nitrate-nitrogen
concentrations in the river have only slightly increased since the mid 1980s, a time in which
there was little concern about water quality or ecological changes in the river. Furthermore, the
excerpted data shown in Figure 3-6 actually indicate a steady downward trend in nitrate-nitrogen
during the period from 2000 2006, while a t-test comparison between the data from 2000-2006
indicate no significant difference in nitrate-nitrogen levels over this period as compared to levels
measured from 1985-1998 (Table 3-1). If algal growth and biomass accumulation were to have a
simple linear relationship to nitrate-nitrogen concentrations, it seems to follow, based upon
available data, that algal growth and biomass accumulation would have either decreased or
remained stable since 2000. However, available data indicate that the biomass and coverage of
undesirable algae have greatly expanded during this time period (Hand 2007).
One possible explanation for this anomaly is that nitrate-nitrogen measurements at
Ichetucknee Springs have been shown to have extreme variability over very short periods of time
due to the flushing of stored contaminants during storm events and other stochastic processes
(Martin and Gordon 2000). High frequency sampling before and after storm events are
recommended by Martin and Gordon (2000) as a means of detecting important spikes and
"pulsed trends" within nitrate-nitrogen levels a recommendation that is not reflected in the
sampling performed by state agencies. Thus, it is conceivable that undetected pulses within
nitrate-nitrogen levels are occurring within the river and that these nutrient pulses might indeed
be a cause of the observed increases in algal growth. Clearly, this line of reasoning cannot be
dismissed and should be explored in more detail in future research. However, the fact that
extreme nitrate-nitrogen pulses were detected by Martin and Gordon (2000) before rapid
increases in algal growth were observed in many areas of the river also tends to support the
search for additional explanatory variables.
Field observations from 2000 2001 and cursory analysis of water quality data are used by
Evans (2002, 47) to hypothesize that algal growth in the upper Ichetucknee River likely is more
correlated with "elevated phosphorus concentrations than with nitrate." This observational
hypothesis is in agreement with subsequent statistical analyses of algal biomass and water
quality conducted by Stevenson et al. (2004) and Hand (2007), both of whom found that algal
biomass in the Ichetucknee River spatially correlates with phosphorus concentrations and shows
no direct statistical relationship with nitrate-nitrogen. On the one hand, a phosphorus relationship
with algal growth is not surprising given the primary role that phosphorus often plays in cultural
eutrophication of aquatic systems throughout the world. Furthermore, Biggs (2000) found
specific correlations between phosphorus and algal biomass accumulation in field studies of
stream systems in New Zealand, with much of this accumulation accounted for by Vaucheria sp.
similar to those found in the Ichetucknee.
But on the other hand, phosphorus enrichment does not seem to provide a coherent
explanation for observed ecological changes in the Ichetucknee River, largely because
phosphorus concentrations measured within springs are, unlike nitrate-nitrogen, not known to
have increased significantly over time. Geologists have found that phosphorus loaded into
springsheds from fertilizer applications and wastewater disposal is adsorbed to overlying soils
and carbonate rock before groundwater can be contaminated, meaning that differential
phosphorus concentrations among springs generally are a function of the natural phosphate
content of rocks being eroded by groundwater flow in areas of the Floridan aquifer near the
spring outfalls not anthropogenic contamination (Jones et al. 1996). A policy implication of
this geological finding is that reduction of phosphorus concentrations discharged from springs
likely is not a plausible ecosystem management strategy for reducing algal growth in springs
(Joyner and Paerl 2007).
Even if algal accumulation in the Ichetucknee River is phosphorus limited, it can be
coherently hypothesized, however, that algal growth may have been originally triggered by
nitrate-nitrogen contamination, with naturally available phosphorus in the spring water simply
limiting the extent to which the growth reaction can be expressed. While this hypothesis clearly
cannot be dismissed and should be researched in more detail, declines of submersed plants
associated with spread of nuisance algae recently have been recorded in Silver Glen Springs and
Alexander Springs, both of which have undeveloped springsheds contained almost entirely
within the Ocala National Forest and background concentrations of both nitrate-nitrogen (under
0. 1 mg/L) and phosphorus (Joyner and Paerl 2007). The importance of this finding is that
undesirable ecosystem changes associated with algal overgrowth in some cases can be triggered
by disturbance factors apparently unrelated to nitrate-nitrogen contamination.
In addition, Cowell and Dawes (2004) recently found that the biomass accumulation of
Lyngbya wollei, a cyanobacterium species that is increasingly displacing submersed plants at
Ichetucknee and other Florida springs, is only significantly reduced in spring water at nitrate-
nitrogen concentrations as low as 0.07 mg/L, or approximately 10 times lower than what is
currently found in the Ichetucknee. This finding suggests that, even in those cases where nitrate-
nitrogen may be a primary causal factor in triggering increased algal growth, the subsequent
changes in ecosystem function and corresponding autocatalytic feedbacks may represent a
nonlinear shift in ecosystem stability domain (Scheffer et al. 1993). An implication of such a
nonlinear relationship is that even a dramatic reduction of nitrate-nitrogen to levels (e.g., under
0.3 mg/L) historically not associated with high levels of algal biomass accumulation may be
insufficient for abating the continued accumulation and expansion of algal biomass in the future
(Cowell and Dawes 2004).
But even if these findings and suggested relationships are discounted and a simple linear
relationship between nitrate-nitrogen and algal growth is assumed, current management and
restoration strategies still are incomplete in the sense that they do not adequately account for the
long-term entrainment of nitrate-nitrogen in the groundwater from past and ongoing land use
activities. Given current contamination patterns and the travel times of groundwater in the
springshed, even the most successful conservation and/or water quality improvement programs
are not likely to result in significant reduction of the ambient concentration of nitrate-nitrogen
discharged in large springs ecosystems like Ichetucknee for at least two decades (Jones et al.
1996; Katz et al. 1999; Cowell and Dawes 2004). Taken together, all of these analyses suggest
that current ecosystem management and policy development strategies, which are hinged almost
entirely upon reduction of nitrate-nitrogen loading within the springshed, are unlikely to be
sufficient for the achievement of significant reductions in algal growth in the Ichetucknee River
for the foreseeable future.
Water Lettuce Eradication
In June 2000, DEP's Bureau of Invasive Plant Management (BIPM) announced plans to
begin herbicide applications on the Ichetucknee River to control water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes),
a floating aquatic plant found along the banks, snags, and stagnant areas throughout much of the
river at that time. According to aquatic plant control researchers at the University of Florida,
water lettuce is an invasive nonnative3 plant that can significantly reduce biodiversity in
Florida's aquatic ecosystems by shading out native submersed plants, destroying emergent
vegetation, and by "eliminating underwater animals" through oxygen depletion (Ramey 2001).
3 Although the ability of water lettuce to spread rapidly (i.e., invasively) in disturbed and nutrient-enriched aquatic
ecosystems in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world is well-documented (Sharma 1984), the claim that water
lettuce is not native to Florida is a matter of considerable scientific controversy and inconclusive speculation
(Stuckey and Les 1984: Stoddard 1989: Ramey 2001). A major source of the controversy comes from the fact that
the explorer William Bartram, often used as a historical source for cataloguing the native flora of Florida, commonly
observed and made drawings of water lettuce on the St. John's River, Suwannee River, and several lakes in 1765
(Stuckey and Les 1984). Stuckey and Les (1984) argue that the best biological evidence for presuming that water
lettuce is exotic to Florida (i.e., introduced by human activity in the post-Columbian era) derives from an
assumption, commonly held at the time their paper was written, that water lettuce does not produce seeds in Florida
due to a lack of appropriate pollinators. Based upon this assumption, they speculate that the water lettuce observed
by Bartram may originally have been introduced from South America by 16th century Spanish settlers in St.
Augustine. This speculative introduction theory is, however, undermined to some extent by a later finding that seed
production is, in fact, an important source of reproduction for water lettuce in Florida (Dray and Center 1989). Some
aquatic plant researchers, perhaps through a misunderstanding of Stuckey and Les's (1984) original speculations,
currently suggest that water lettuce's most likely mode of introduction into Florida was through the "ballast water"
of Spanish ships (Ramey 2001). However, Spanish sailing ships in the 16th 18th centuries (and all other sailing
ships before the late 19th century) used non-water stone ballast (Wiley 1995), indicating that ballast water clearly
was not the mode of water lettuce's introduction into Florida before the time of Bartram. The primary source, other
than Bartram, suggesting that water lettuce may be native to Florida is Stoddard (1989), who uses paleofloristic and
ethnobotanical findings to make a speculative argument that water lettuce likely has been present in most tropical
and subtropical regions of the world, including Florida, "throughout antiquity" (Stoddard 1989, 23).
While acknowledging that water lettuce had been documented to create "only minor
problems on the Ichetucknee River," BIPM argued that the new control program was, however,
urgently needed to "help reduce environmental and economic losses" associated with water
lettuce in the tidal creeks of the lower Suwannee River estuary, located approximately 60 miles
downstream (DEP 2000). Likely in response to significant public opposition engendered by the
chemical control proposal, over the next several months BIPM agreed to indefinitely delay
herbicide applications and instead assisted ISSP with the institution of an experimental water
lettuce eradication program based upon hand harvest of the plant. A part-time employment
position at ISSP dedicated solely to removal of water lettuce was funded by BIPM, and plans
were initiated for up to 9 weekend water lettuce "round up" days each year that would utilize
The water lettuce removal efforts began at the Ichetucknee Head Spring in late 2000, and
have progressively moved down river as the water lettuce in upstream areas is successfully
extirpated (Figure 3-3). The periodic volunteer events are used to quickly remove large water
lettuce concentrations from targeted areas of the river, while the ISSP employee, with periodic
assistance from volunteers, interns, and/or workers from service organizations such as
AmeriCorps, maintains a day to day focus on removing every visible piece of water lettuce from
the river bank and other hard to reach areas. The laborious process of removing even the smallest
fragments of water lettuce in the river is often referred to as "nit-picking." Once removed, the
water lettuce is deposited in disposal sites located along the river' s adj acent flood plain forest
Several years later, this effort has been a clear success in terms of almost entirely
eradicating water lettuce from significant stretches of the upper Ichetucknee River. The influence
of this management strategy has reached as far as California, where researchers recently cited the
Ichetucknee water lettuce eradication campaign as a primary example of utilizing a "strong sense
of stewardship" among a local community to effectively institute a non-chemical invasive plant
control program (Greenfield et al. 2004, 59). Local media also have given positive coverage to
the volunteer clean up days, with one representative story citing officials and volunteers who
argue that the water lettuce removal helps to "save the river" from an invasive exotic plant that is
"choking life" and reducing biodiversity in the aquatic ecosystem (Sobel 2004).
Observed Ecosystem Response
In January May 2001, I recorded a number of field observations while working as a
volunteer student intern at ISSP. My primary duty throughout this internship was hand removal
of water lettuce, which as discussed above had recently been initiated as a formal control
program. On most days I was the sole assistant to the ISSP employee recently hired for the water
lettuce removal program, although on some days small work crews from AmeriCorps and other
service organizations would also assist with harvesting and nit-picking activities. In addition, I
participated in several of the large volunteer work day events, which generally attracted 50 100
people, held during this time period. As shown in Figure 3-3, the water lettuce eradication
program during 2000 2001 covered the upper Ichetucknee River, with some gaps, from the
Head Spring to Devil's Eye Spring.
A consistent observation made throughout this experience was that, contrary to the
description of the plant' s adverse effects (e.g., oxygen depletion and faunal depopulation) given
by Ramey (2001) and largely adopted in public communications about the eradication campaign
at ISSP (Sobel 2004), water lettuce was being utilized as habitat by a large number of aquatic
fauna in the Ichetucknee River. In particular, I consistently observed that the fibrous roots of
harvested water lettuce plants often contained large populations of aquatic invertebrates such as
spring run crayfish, several types of mollusks and snails, and a wide variety of insects. While
limited effort was made to return some of the larger organisms back into the river, it seems fairly
safe to assume that most of the removed organisms perished.
Although these observations, and similar observations recently reported in a newspaper
editorial by Dame (2006), clearly are anecdotal, they also are consistent with better documented
accounts. For example, field measurements of oxygen levels under water hyacinth, which has
similar ecological functionality to water lettuce, in the spring-fed St. Marks River indicate that
flowing water conditions in spring-fed streams can be expected to prevent the large-scale oxygen
deficits and faunal depopulation commonly attributed to floating plant mats in other ecosystem
contexts (Bartodziej and Leslie 1998). The potential habitat value of water lettuce in spring runs
is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by Thompson' s (1968) description of the dense hydrobe
snail (Aphaostracon pycnum), a species endemic to Alexander Springs in the Ocala National
Forest and reported to be almost exclusively associated with floating mats of water lettuce and
water hyacinth. In addition, internal studies performed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission indicate that water lettuce is preferentially utilized as cover habitat by
several small fish species such as the least killifish (Heterandria formosa), pygmy killifish
(Leptolucania ommata), and an endemic topminnow (Fundulus seminolis) (D. Gallagher,
Environmental Specialist, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, E-mail
Communication, May 8, 2006). Although somewhat different than springs ecosystem in terms of
water flow rates and chemistry, extensive mats of water lettuce found in the "Lettuce Lakes" of
south Florida' s Corkscrew Swamp are known to be characterized by very large populations of
crayfish, wading birds, turtles, alligators and other native animals (USGS 2007).
Another observation made at Ichetucknee was that eradication of water lettuce from a
section of the river was often followed by a rapid colonization and expansion of filamentous
algae. Although the colonizing algae tended to be most obvious and severe in the same low flow
velocity areas where the water lettuce had previously accumulated, substantial increases of
filamentous algal coverage on beds of submersed vegetation such as eel grass and tape grass
were also observed on several occasions after the eradication of adj acent water lettuce mats.
Such an observational relationship of filamentous algae quickly invading into adj acent
submersed plant communities was specifically recorded in field notes at Blue Hole taken in early
2001. These field notes indicate that the spring run' s eel grass and tape grass community did not
have visible accumulations of filamentous algae in the last week of January, when the water
lettuce was harvested and deposited nearby on the river bank (Figure 3-3). By February 13, it
was observed that the spring run was "being overwhelmed by mats of brown and black algae"
growing amongst and "topped out" over the submersed grasses.
A similar observation about filamentous algae rapidly overtaking submersed plants was
also made following the removal and disposal of water lettuce at Devil's Eye Spring in early
spring of 2001. Although the Devil's Eye field notes are not specifically dated, the two
photographs dated December 2000 (Figure 3-2D) and May 2001 (Figure 3-2E) respectively show
the spring at times soon before and after the eradication of water lettuce. In December 2000, little
accumulation of filamentous is noticeable on submersed plants. By May 2001, after the removal
and disposal of large amounts of water lettuce in an area directly adj acent to the spring boil (see
Figure 3-3), large strands of filamentous algae are clearly apparent. Since May 2001, the eel
grass community in Devil's Eye Spring has almost completely disappeared due to displacement
by filamentous algae (Hand 2007).
Like the observations about faunal utilization of water lettuce, my reports of rapid algal
growth following water lettuce removal are, of course, fundamentally anecdotal. However, a
review of scientific literature can be used to coherently hypothesize a competitive relationship
between water lettuce and algal growth in the Ichetucknee River. The hypothesis, presented in
Figure 3-7 as a systems ecology model using Odum' s (1994) network language, suggests that the
primary form of competition between water lettuce and algae is for sunlight, with water lettuce
having a clear competitive advantage due to its physiology as a floating plant (Attionu 1976).
Nutrients are shown as a secondary source of competition in the model. This competitive
relationship is suggested by a wide variety of scientific studies indicating that water lettuce is
one of the most effective aquatic plants in uptake of nitrate-nitrogen (Nelson et al. 1980; Tripathi
et al. 1991; Panda and Kar 1996; Kao et al. 2000; Lopes-Ferreira 2000; Lin et al. 2002; Sooknah
and Wilkie 2004), phosphorus (Tucker and Debusk 1981; Tripathi et al. 1991; Panda and Kar
1996; Kao et al. 2000; Lopes-Ferreira 2000; Kent et al. 2000; Sooknah and Wilkie 2004), and
iron and various other metals (Sharma 1984; Sridhar 1986; Kao et al. 2000) thought to influence
algal growth patterns in the Ichetucknee River and other springs (Stevenson et al. 2004). It is
notable that pond culturalists throughout the world commonly utilize water lettuce for
suppression of algae based upon the sunlight competition and nutrient uptake mechanisms
(Cohen 1993) suggested in this model.
In addition, the model contains an additional feedback mechanism indicating that water
lettuce biomass may serve as a further drain on algal growth beyond the direct competition for
sunlight and nutrients. This relationship is suggested by studies showing that water lettuce
releases allelopathic chemicals that suppress some algae species (Aliotta et al. 1991; Gross
2003), can directly filter and retain a large amount of algal biomass in its fibrous root mass (Kim
et al. 2001), and is utilized as habitat by various bacteria, zooplankton, and other fauna that
consume algae (Attionu 1976). A final relationship shown in the model is that the shoreline
disposal of water lettuce likely resulted in a secondary pulsed release of nutrients back into the
aquatic ecosystem as the biomass decayed, perhaps serving as an additional catalyst for algal
growth. Prevention of secondary nutrient loading through biomass management techniques that
move harvested aquatic plant biomass well away from the shore of a water body is discussed by
Shijun and Jingsong (1989) in relation to harvest and utilization of water hyacinth from a
eutrophic Chinese river.
Conversational interviews and public communications with twenty-eight stakeholders were
used to gather perceptions of the Ichetucknee River' s ecological conditions, and then, as
described in Chapter 2, to introduce and discuss the water lettuce/algae response hypothesis.
Seven of these stakeholders were scientists and/or managers directly employed by government
agencies with ecosystem management responsibilities at the Ichetucknee River, six were private
or university scientists with research and/or management experience in the Ichetucknee River,
and the remaining fifteen were non-scientists4 who have attended at least one meeting of the
As noted in Chapter 2, all interview informants were asked to describe their understanding
of the problems currently facing the Ichetucknee River system. Not surprisingly given the
association of these stakeholders with the Working Group, the dominant themes discussed in
4 The descriptive term non-scientist is being used as shorthand to identify those stakeholders who are not currently
employed as environmental scientists. This shorthand may, however, be a little misleading in the sense that some of
the stakeholders may have advanced scientific training and/or are professionally employed in scientific professions.
In any case, the distinction being made is between those stakeholders whose participation in the Working Group
primarily is associated with their status as environmental/ecological scientists (both agency and non-agency) with
professional expertise about the Ichetucknee River, and those stakeholders participating solely on the basis of being
relation to ecological conditions were concern about increasing algal growth and nitrate-nitrogen
contamination within the river. Almost all stakeholders (twenty-seven) at some point mentioned
that algal growth in the river has, in their view, markedly increased since they first visited the
river, and the unanimous consensus among these was that the problem continues to worsen.
There was also a clear tendency to link this growth with nitrate-nitrogen contamination, with
twenty-two stakeholders and all fourteen non-scientists who noted increased algal growth -
indicating that increased nitrate-nitrogen was the likely cause of the algal growth. However,
three non-agency scientists and two agency scientists suggested that factors other than and/or in
addition to nitrate-nitrogen could be triggering algal growth. Water lettuce was cited by eighteen
stakeholders (ten non-scientists, five agency scientists, and three non-agency scientists) as
another primary concern within the river, although the harvest program was cited by sixteen of
these as being effective in getting the plant under control.
Participants were then presented with information suggesting that management of water
lettuce may be linked to the proliferation of nuisance algae in the Ichetucknee River. Although it
must be cautioned that the non-random selection method prevents traditional statistical analysis,
distinct response patterns were observed among the different informant groups after being
introduced to this information, particularly to the following two questions: 1) Should the idea of
invasive plant management being linked to proliferation of nuisance algae be investigated further
by scientists? 2) Should ecosystem managers consider modifying the ways in which they manage
water lettuce in Ichetucknee Springs?
Twelve out of the fifteen non-scientist respondents (80%) indicated that they both
supported more research into the hypothesized relationship and believed that managers should
consider modifying plant management strategies based upon the results of scientific study. Six of
these twelve additionally indicated that their own observations about ecosystem response in the
Ichetucknee were consistent with the information presented. While there is a danger that such a
response could be an artifact of non-scientist respondents deferring to what they consider to be a
more authoritative opinion, it is notable that, in the preliminary interviews, only one of these six
cited water lettuce as a primary concern within the river. In addition, five out of six (83%) non-
agency scientists a group who would not be expected to uncritically defer also indicated
support for both additional research and consideration of alternative plant management strategies
after being presented with the hypothesis. Among agency scientists and managers the response
pattern was noticeably different, with Hyve out of seven (71%) suggesting that alternative plant
management strategies should not be considered. Interestingly, while three of these Hyve did
suggest it was possible that removal of water lettuce could have resulted in increased growth of
algae, statutory mandates for controlling nonnative species and fears that water lettuce would
quickly grow out of control absent aggressive eradication efforts both were cited in defense of
continuing current management.
Two additional evaluative themes were commonly raised by stakeholders in the interview
process. The first maj or theme suggested by many (twenty-two, or 79%) stakeholders (including
most of those who supported more research into the hypothesized relationship between water
lettuce and algae growth) was that the expansion of native plant species particularly eel grass,
wild rice (Zizania aquatica), and water hemlock (Ciculata maculata) as a result of water
lettuce removal is an important benefit that should also be considered in an overall evaluative
framework. It is notable that two of the three non-scientist stakeholders who argued that there
was no need to reconsider current management strategies justified this stance by suggesting that
nutrient filtration and faunal habitat values provided by the expansion of native plants greatly
exceeded those formerly provided by water lettuce. A second maj or theme suggested by most
stakeholders (twenty-three, or 82%) was preference for the harvest method over management
strategies based upon herbicide usage, largely due to the belief that herbicides would pose a high
threat of non-target damage to aquatic plants and animals.
Adaptive Learning and Institutional Rigidity
Norton (2005, 208) argues that a key component of adaptive management is to "support a
process of social learning in which members of communities, upon seeing the consequences of
acting in pursuit of particular values, may come to question and revise some of the values they
have been acting upon." Using the conversations with stakeholders as a qualitative foundation,
several points relevant to social learning within the management context at Ichetucknee River are
suggested: 1) algal growth is currently viewed as a greater threat to the river' s ecological values
than water lettuce; 2) there is significant willingness among non-scientists and non-agency
scientists to reconsider a commonly held value about water lettuce (i.e., it should be eradicated)
based upon information suggesting that it may help to suppress algae; 3) the spread of native
plants is considered to be a benefit of suppressing water lettuce; and 4) chemical control of water
lettuce is considered to be a highly undesirable management option.
If these qualitative points are combined with both the scientific information suggesting that
reduction of nitrate-nitrogen offers, at best, an uncertain and temporally distant method for
controlling algal growth and the scientific hypotheses elaborated by the systems model, a very
strong foundation for holistically reevaluating the water lettuce eradication policy for the
Ichetucknee River emerges. According to adaptive management theory, integral to this process
of iterative social learning would be detailed monitoring efforts specifically designed to detect
and better understand unintended effects of ongoing management actions (Holling et al. 1998;
Gunderson 1999), along with a discursive environment in which stakeholders have the ability to
openly challenge the "beliefs and evaluative statements that are given to explain and justify
environmental policies" (Norton 2005, 209).
Based upon these prescriptive criteria, it is, however, apparent that the current institutional
framework governing ecosystem management in the Ichetucknee River provides for a rigid, non-
adaptive approach towards the control of water lettuce. In terms of monitoring, the progress of
water lettuce eradication is being documented (Figure 3-2). However, the ecological effects
associated with this eradication have not been rigorously studied either with regard to the
hypothesized algae response relationship suggested above, or to characterize the colonization of
native plant species following the removal of the water lettuce since the program's inception.
Thus, the original eradication policy continues to be justified by two lines of reasoning
conspicuously laden with questionable scientific and moral assumptions: 1) an a priori
attribution of harm to water lettuce associated with its statutory status as an invasive nonnative
species; 2) an accompanying assumption that eradication of the invasive nonnative species brings
unambiguous benefits to the river' s ecological values. Even if questions about the
nonnative/native origins of water lettuce (upon which the primary justifications behind current
management policy are, however, clearly hinged) discussed above in footnote 1 are left aside, the
apparent consensus among stakeholders that the river' s overall ecological condition has, over the
time period of the water lettuce eradication efforts, increasingly deteriorated due to increased
algal growth seems to offer a compelling rationale for a critical reassessment of these
management assumptions and practices through a holistic monitoring program.
In fairness, it could be argued that the lack of monitoring associated with the water lettuce
eradication program was originally an epistemological issue, in the sense that scientific questions
relevant for framing the monitoring program had not yet emerged. However, a secondary effect
of discussing the hypothesis about water lettuce eradication and algal response with stakeholders
was that this idea was introduced into the discursive context of the Working Group. As indicated
above, most agency scientists and managers interviewed for this dissertation expressed
opposition to the idea of reconsidering the current eradication strategy, with this position often
justified by reference to a statutory directive in Chapter 369.22(1)(d) of the Florida Statutes
(2006b) that calls for maintenance of nonnative plants such as water lettuce at the "lowest
While there is little question that the goal of maintaining water lettuce at the lowest
feasible level is standard among state agencies engaged in aquatic plant control activities,
Chapter 369.22(4) contains an additional clause indicating that management of aquatic plants
must also "protect human health, safety, and recreation and, to the greatest degree practicable,
prevent injury to plant, Eish, and animal life" (Florida Statutes 2006b). This latter clause, it would
seem, provides an unambiguous basis for monitoring and reflecting upon the consequences of
aquatic plant management, with the implication that appropriate and iterative adjustments should
be made to both protect consensual public goods and prevent consensual public harms. Thus,
specific aquatic plant management practices associated with the production of algal blooms that
negatively affect public health, safety, recreation, Eish, and/or wildlife presumably would be
subj ect to review under the criteria set forth by the statute.
The qualitative interview research indicates that there is significant interest among
stakeholders for further inquiry into the benefits, costs, and effects of aquatic plant management
activities in the Ichetucknee River, and the stakeholder Working Group would seem to provide
an appropriate forum for such discussions. However, public discussion of the management policy
through the auspices of the Working Group so far has been discouraged through an apparent
rigidity associated with the prevailing institutional assumptions used to justify aquatic plant
control. For example, my own request to make a formal presentation to the Working Group
raising questions about water lettuce eradication and algal proliferation was denied in April
2004, with the stated rationale being that such a topic would fall outside of the Working Group's
stated mission of improving water quality in the springshed.5
More recently, a non-scientist stakeholder made independent public comments during a
Working Group meeting held on October 11, 2006, suggesting that potential linkages between
increased algal growth in the river and the water lettuce eradication program should be a focus of
monitoring and research activities. Although, as discussed above, the original scientific
justification for initiating the water lettuce eradication program in 2000 was based upon
downstream impacts to the Suwannee estuary (DEP 2000), the official response given to this
recent stakeholder concern was a pronouncement that agency biologists had come to the
conclusion that water lettuce threatened to "completely overtake the river." Citing dire
consequences such as the complete destruction of submersed plant communities and cessation of
recreational activities that would be associated with water lettuce completely covering the river,
it was then stipulated that the eradication policy was not an appropriate matter for public debate.
This response clearly had the intended effect, contra to what Norton (2005) recommends for
facilitating an effective adaptive management program, of discouraging additional public
challenges to the institutional beliefs being used to justify and explain an ongoing ecosystem
5 Although I do not believe that most Working Group members would make this distinction between the mission of
protecting water quality in the springshed and understanding ecological conditions in the river. I have respected this
request by not publicly raising questions about water lettuce management within the context of Working Group
6 This is to clarify that there was no communication or coordination between myself and this stakeholder in relation
to the public comments made at the Working Group meeting.
Management Experimentation: Moving Beyond All or Nothing
As generally suggested by Gunderson (1999), the socio-ecological research presented in
this chapter suggests that two maj or impediments to adaptive learning exist with relation to water
lettuce management in the Ichetucknee River: 1) fear of a non-resilient ecosystem "shifting to an
unwanted stability domain" (i.e., complete coverage of the river by water lettuce); and 2)
inflexibility in the "extant power relations among stakeholders" (i.e., institutional rigidities
organized around defense of current agency policies). Underlying these fears and rigidities are
what philosophers commonly call "all or nothing" thinking, or, more technically, the fallacy of
false alternatives. In other words, a wide variety of alternative scenarios exist between, on the
one hand, current management goals and techniques (eradication and shoreline disposal of water
lettuce) and, on the other hand, a cessation of aquatic plant management that leaves the river
recreationally unusable. For example, a logical reform to the current management strategy could
be pursuit of alternative biomass disposal techniques, perhaps through utilization of bottom-lined
composting facilities and/or mobile dumpsters, to prevent the risk of pulsed nutrient loading into
the river. Another logical reform would be to specifically monitor the successional patterns
observed after the removal of water lettuce.
Leaving aside any ultimate determinations as to whether or not the increasing algal growth
observed in the Ichetucknee River over recent years has any important ecological relationship
with the water lettuce eradication program, there is clear social consensus that increased algal
growth being observed in the river represents a highly undesirable shift in stability domain.
Equally clear, as discussed above, from a scientific perspective is that extant groundwater
contaminant patterns, along with the apparent resilience of the algal stability domain to lowered
nutrient levels, make it highly unlikely that current management strategies are sufficient for
achieving consonance between the socially mediated values and management goals established
for the ecosystem and the clear constraints posed by extant and emergent environmental
Gunderson (1999) suggests that a pragmatic antidote for building "resilience and
flexibility" into socio-ecological contexts characterized by institutional rigidity and resource
collapse is through small-scale pilot experiments' designed to bring novel lines of inquiry into
the management context. Ideally, the socio-ecological information developed in this chapter
could be used as the basis for such small scale experiments. For example, one logical
management experiment would be to intentionally grow water lettuce perhaps in polyculture
with native floating aquatic plants, such as water pennywort (Hydrocotyl sp.) in certain areas of
the river (e.g., spring runs) currently characterized by high levels of algal growth. Such
experiments could be used to better understand the effects of water lettuce and other aquatic
plant species on algal production, faunal populations, submersed and emergent plant species, and
various physico-chemical variables (e.g., nitrate-nitrogen, phosphorus, and dissolved oxygen)
within the specific context of the Ichetucknee River.
Any experiments for better understanding the ecological functions of water lettuce,
however, need not supplant the overall management goal of minimizing the plant in most areas
of the river, both to prevent downstream migration of the plant and encourage growth of more
desirable native plants. In fact, it would be relatively straightforward to coordinate such a pilot
experiment with the existing management infrastructure to test, as suggested by Lopes-Ferreira
SAdmittedly, a key practical barrier to such pilot experiments is suggested in a more recent paper by Gunderson et
al. (2006). These authors pointedly argue that a lack of holistic learning capacity in the Florida Everglades is
systemically perpetuated by a monolithic research funding apparatus, dominated by government agencies, that filters
out "integrative studies" that could question existing policies in favor of those that "reinforce existing dogma."
While such an institutional consideration almost certainly holds for this case, it can be argued that the comparatively
small scale of both the Ichetucknee ecosystem (relative to the Everglades) and studies being called for here leave
open the possibility of non-traditional (e.g., private non-profit, independently funded graduate student, collaboration
with volunteer organizations, etc.) means of supporting the recommended research. Obtaining necessary aquatic
plant permits to conduct the recommended research, however, is another practical barrier that should be considered.
et al. (2000), different water lettuce growth and harvest methods for the purpose of identifying
any specific strategies that may maximize contaminant removal and/or restoration of the overall
ecological community in degraded areas. Information gathered through such studies would not
only make a valuable contribution to overall ecological knowledge, but the process of
communicating and evaluating the results of the experiments in public forums, whether in
coordination with or independently of the Working Group, could help to invigorate and stimulate
the overall process of adaptive learning.
0O 0.5 1 2
CV R -
Cu.I U I y
i~ ~ ~~~1 ....us pal;;: l~lr I nrll4111' -
'ri ; ~
I_ _._1 _. __
~ i.. -- ~ -1~ o'i~.t II'
.~ .I:' .:I.. _:
Figure 3-1. Map of Ichetucknee River and Springs
Ichetucknee River and Springs
r rA ~C~;L
Figure 3-2. Time series photographs of Devil's Eye Spring A) 1987, photograph by Johnny
Dame. B) 1989, photograph by Johnny Dame. C) 1993, photograph by Johnny Dame.
D) December 2000 (Follman and Buchanan 2004). E) May 2001 (Hand 2006).
WATERLETTUC E REMOVA-L
5~Fprmp-ld w.amrn (qrpl m..seT
Fploaph swamp, los u*b readies
a of Fdlo ~lau omsr
Figure 3-3. Map of water lettuce removal at ISSP (Hand 2006)
Ichetucknee Springs Nitrate: 1966 2006
1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
- 2006 (Data from Hand 2006)
1965 1970 1975 1980
Figure 3-4. Ichetucknee Springs nitrate: 1966
R- = 0.8689
Ichetucknee Springs Nitrate: 1985 2006
0.1R~ = 0. 1369
1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006
Figure 3-5. Ichetucknee Springs nitrate: 1985-2006 (Data from Hand 2006)
R- = 0.7227
Figure 3-6. Ichetucknee River nitrate: 2001
-2006 (Data from Hand 2006)
Table 3-1. T-test comparison of Ichetucknee River nitrate levels, 1985-1998 vs. 2001-2006
t Critical one-tail
t Critical two-tail
Ichetucknee Springs Nitrate: 2001 2006
Figure 3-7. Systems model of water lettuce and algae competition at Ichetucknee River
KINGS BAY/CRYSTAL RIVER
Kings Bay/Crystal River is a freshwater springs and tidally-influenced river system located
in Citrus County on the northwestern coast of the Florida peninsula (Figure 4-1). The headwaters
of Crystal River are formed by Kings Bay, a 600 acre open water area with depths generally
ranging between 3 to 10 feet and containing at least 30 artesian springs (Jones et al. 1998). The
combined discharge of Kings Bay's springs is approximately 630 million gallons per day (mgd),
which comprises the vast maj ority of flow within Crystal River and makes Kings Bay one of the
world's largest known artesian springs complexes (Rosenau et al. 1977). The main channel of
Crystal River emerges from the northwestern section of Kings Bay, and then flows
approximately 6 miles to the west-northwest before discharging into the Gulf of Mexico (Scott et
al. 2002). Due to their position along the gulf coast, both Kings Bay and Crystal River are
subj ect to periodic storm surge-driven inputs of saline water. This chapter focuses specifically on
the Kings Bay headwater portions of the Crystal River ecosystem.
The constant influx of artesian spring water maintains a year round temperature of
approximately 72 degrees Fahrenheit and provides for clear water conditions in many areas of
Kings Bay. These ecological conditions historically have supported the growth of highly
productive submerged aquatic plant communities. This combination of warm spring water and
lush plant growth have also made Kings Bay one of the world' s most important habitats for
endangered West Indian manatees (Trichecus manatus) (Figure 4-2). Manatees are large,
herbivorous marine mammals that take winter refuge in Florida spring ecosystems due to their
inability to survive extended exposure to water temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and
whose Florida population of approximately 3500 is primarily threatened by fatal collisions with
boats and toxins associated with near shore algal blooms. The recreational desirability of clear
water springs and the unique opportunity to view large numbers of a charismatic endangered
species serve as the foundations for an economically important nature-based tourism industry in
the Kings Bay/Crystal River area.
Over the past two decades there has been increasing concern among government agencies
and local stakeholders about a perceived deterioration of ecosystem conditions within Kings
Bay. Much of this concern stems from increased coverage of filamentous cyanobacteria mats
generally composed ofLyngbya wollei (Figure 4-3), decline of submerged macrophytes such as
native eel grass (Vallisneria amnericana) and nonnative hydrilla, and a decrease in water clarity
throughout Kings Bay (Munson 1999; SWFWMD 2004). The ongoing replacement of
submerged macrophytes with L. wollei is considered problematic by most Kings Bay
stakeholders for several reasons. Primary among these is that manatees feed extensively upon
most aquatic macrophytes, including preferentially upon nonnatives such as hydrilla and
Eurasian milfoil (M~yriophyllum spicatum) (Campbell and Irvine 1977; Silverberg and Morris
1987), but apparently find little to no food value in L. wollei (Anonymous 2005). Therefore, it is
feared that loss of submerged macrophytes in favor of L. wollei may directly threaten an
important winter food source for the endangered manatee population. In addition, loss of
macrophytes is correlated with decreased water clarity in Kings Bay (Munson 1999), a condition
that is thought to adversely affect recreational enj oyment and tourism within the ecosystem. L.
wollei' s general unattractive appearance, foul odor, and emission of toxins that can cause some
individuals to develop severe allergic reactions are other problems often cited by managers and
stakeholders (Gross and Martin 1996).
Due largely to the growing problems associated with the proliferation ofL. wollei, in 1988
the Kings Bay/Crystal River complex was listed by the Southwest Florida Water Management
District (SWFWMD) in its Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) priority list
(SWFWMD 2004). Under the provisions of Chapter 373.451 353.4595 in the Florida Statutes,
the SWIM Plan serves as the operative research and planning document for setting and achieving
ecosystem restoration and protection obj ectives within Kings Bay (SWFWMD 2000). The first
SWIM plan for Kings Bay was developed by SWFWMD in 1989, with extensive updates made
in 2000. The most recent SWIM Plan document establishes the primary restoration goals for
Kings Bay/Crystal River as improved water clarity, reduction of L. wollei, prevention of
sediment resuspension within the water column, re-vegetation of degraded areas with desirable
submerged macrophytes, and protection of the endangered manatee population (SWFWMD
2000). But despite many years of scientific research and management effort associated with the
SWIM Plan, the general consensus among managers and stakeholders is that the Kings Bay
ecosystem continues to steadily decline.
Contaminant loadings from land use activities and hydrologic alterations within the
watersheds of aquatic systems are widely recognized as two primary factors to consider in
aquatic restoration proj ects. The Kings Bay/Crystal River watershed is characterized by highly
porous sandy soils that directly overlie and drain vertically into the cavernous limestone and
dolomite formations of the upper Floridan aquifer the source of the water that discharges from
the springs within Kings Bay (Jones et al. 1998). Such subsurface drainage catchments that
discharge into artesian springs are often referred to as "springsheds" (Scott et al. 2004). Most
Florida springsheds are known to be quite vulnerable to groundwater contamination from human
land- use activities due to the porosity of surface soils, lack of significant confining layers over
the Floridan aquifer, and the presence of many sinkhole features that can transport contaminated
runoff directly into the groundwater (Florida Springs Task Force 2000; Scott et al. 2004).
Previous studies have found a variety of nutrients, pesticides, herbicides, petrochemical residues,
and other anthropogenic contaminants within Florida springs that have large areas of agricultural
and/or residential land usages within their springshed (Katz and Bohlke 2000; Phelps 2004).
However, nitrate-nitrogen, which can originate from fertilizer applications, discharge of human
and animal wastewater, and atmospheric deposition, is generally regarded as the contaminant of
most concern in many Florida springs, both due to the precipitous increases in nitrate-nitrogen
concentrations observed in springs throughout the state and the known potential of nitrate-
nitrogen to cause rapid eutrophication once it reaches aquatic systems (Jones et al. 1998; Florida
Springs Task Force 2000; Katz and Bohlke 2000; Phelps 2004; Scott et al. 2004).
Most of the current land-use within the Kings Bay springshed is characterized by low-
intensity timber, pasture, and agriculture that generally pose a low to moderate contamination
risk. However, more intensive land usages such as domestic lawns, golf courses, commercial
development, and municipal wastewater spray fields that pose greater contamination risks are
present and quickly increasing throughout the springshed (Jones et al. 1998; SWFWMD 2004).
Very little historic data have been collected for pesticides, herbicides, and petrochemical residues
within Kings Bay's springs, but quarterly nutrient samples for nutrients have been taken by
SWFWMD since June 1989. Nitrate-nitrogen concentrations within Kings Bay's springs
currently range from approximately 0.2 0.5 parts per million (ppm) (SWFWMD 2004). While
relatively low in comparison to several other large Florida springs that often show nitrate-
nitrogen levels well over 1 ppm (Jones et al. 1998; Scott et al. 2004), the nitrate-nitrogen
concentrations within Kings Bay are thought to represent a twenty-fold increase over background
nitrate-nitrogen concentrations found within uncontaminated portions of the Floridan aquifer
(Jones et al. 1998). Unfortunately, nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in Kings Bay's springs are
expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future due to a known plume of extant
groundwater contamination and anticipated land-use intensification within the Kings Bay
springshed (Jones et al. 1998). Although increased nitrate-nitrogen levels within springs are
rightly viewed with great concern by regulatory agencies, scientific studies to date have shown
surprisingly little spatio-correlation or direct ecological relationship between increased
concentrations of nitrate-nitrogen and the increased L. wollei growth observed within Kings Bay
and other Florida springs (Romie 1990; Hoyer et al. 1997; Munson 1999; SWFWMD 2000;
Stevenson et al. 2004).
Direct surface runoff into Kings Bay is limited to relatively small areas of land adj acent to
the water body and is believed to contribute relatively minor amounts of contaminants on an
annual, mass-balance basis (SWFWMD 2004). However, the relatively high density of
commercial and residential land uses within this surface drainage basin and a drainage
infrastructure that directly loads stormwater from many impervious surfaces directly into Kings
Bay together indicate that localized pulses of heavy metals, petrochemicals, herbicides,
pesticides, and other anthropogenic contaminants from stormwater discharge points may play an
important role in the degradation of the ecosystem (SWFWMD 2004). Other historic hydrologic
alterations such as the dredging of numerous canals, filling and impoundment of fringing
wetlands, and construction of hardened sea walls along many areas of the shore are also thought
to have had deleterious ecological effects (SWFWMD 2004). Although some SWIM Plan
resources are currently being put into restoration proj ects aimed at improving stormwater
infrastructure and replacing some failed sea walls with vegetative buffers, the vast maj ority of
historic hydrologic alterations in Kings Bay are regarded as permanent due to the substantial
residential and commercial developments now located on filled lands as well as the scarcity and
high cost of land that could potentially be used for mitigation proj ects (SWFWMD 2004).
The genesis of this research was my participation in a University of Florida Conservation
Clinic (UFCC) proj ect to assist the City of Crystal River' s Kings Bay Water Quality
Subcommittee (KBWQS) in the development of model stormwater and landscaping ordinances.
The UFCC is a non-litigation based law clinic, housed in the Levin College of Law' s Center for
Governmental Responsibility, that utilizes teams of upper-level law and graduate students under
the direction of law faculty mentors to develop policy recommendations for private businesses,
non-profit organizations, and government agencies who are pursuing proj ects that further the
goals of environmental conservation. The KBWQS is a citizen-based group that advises the City
of Crystal River on policies related to improving water quality within Kings Bay, and is funded
through grants provided by the Waterfronts Florida Partnership of the Florida Department of
Community Affairs (DCA).
The model ordinance proj ect necessitated close collaboration with citizen and agency
stakeholders to rapidly develop working knowledge of the issues of concern in Kings Bay.
Stakeholders shared local knowledge about Kings Bay through in-depth conversations, both in
meetings of the KBWQS and through Hield trips into Kings Bay and surrounding areas of the
watershed. This collaborative process revealed that local citizens had a variety of different
concerns and opinions about the overall management of Kings Bay that went well beyond the
specific concerns about stormwater contamination, with many of these concerns focused on
historic and ongoing management of aquatic plants in the ecosystem.
After the completion of the UFCC proj ect in December 2004, I continued to regularly
attend and take detailed Hield notes of meetings held by the WQS. As described in Chapter 2, a
formal qualitative research protocol for in depth stakeholder interviews approved by the
University of Florida' s Institutional Review Board was utilized in the Crystal River area from
April August 2005. Due to the non-random selection methods use, the content of the interviews
is not necessarily expected to be reflective of general beliefs held by the population at large
within the Crystal River area. However, it is expected that the methodology used for this study
did provide a window into the local knowledge of citizens most involved and interested in the
Kings Bay ecosystem, and that better understanding of this local knowledge may provide
important insight into deficiencies within the "expert knowledge" of research and agency
scientists (Fischer 2000; Norton 2005).
Twenty-four stakeholders living in the Crystal River area were interviewed through the
research protocol. As this interview research progressed, it became clear that most local residents
shared similar concerns about the root causes of Kings Bay's degradation as those cited typically
cited by agency managers and research scientists, including springshed contamination, historic
hydrologic alterations, rapid development, and increased boat traffic (SWFWMD 2004).
However, a clear divergence between the perceptions of local residents interviewed and
information presented by management agencies was the suggestion of many residents that past
and present aquatic plant management activities were an important factor in the emergence and
persistence of L. wollei. Interest in better understanding this divergence prompted a review of
scientific literature on both Kings Bay and invasive aquatic plants such as water hyacinth,
hydrilla, and L. wollei. Findings of this literature review were then supplemented by direct
communications, public record e-mails, and conversational exchanges in public meetings with
research and agency scientists, particularly through participation in the KBWG.
The content of these qualitative research findings and subsequent literature review are used
in this chapter to construct an ecological history that focuses largely on aquatic plant
management activities in Kings Bay and the role that these activities may have played in shaping
and perpetuating the currently observed ecosystem state. The interview research presented as
local knowledge in this chapter is constructed through a triangulation method, in the sense that
independent verification of reported events and observations was made through discovery of
supporting documentation, scientific literature, and/or the consistency of multiple stakeholder
accounts. It is also noted in the chapter narrative whenever stakeholder accounts are the sole
source of a given claim.
The combination of local knowledge and supporting scientific literature is used as the
foundation for developing two scientific hypotheses: 1) chemical control of aquatic plants,
particularly through the usage of copper-herbicides in the 1970s and 1980s, may have caused
systemic disruptions of planktonic food chains, thereby contributing to the selection of a resistant
strain of L. wollei to become dominant among the phytoplankton community; and 2) increased
coverage and/or alternative management of nonnative macrophyte species, and particularly
experiments based upon recent advances in water hyacinth phytoremediation, may be more
consistent with the functional restoration of Kings Bay than current management strategies.
As described in Chapter 2, these hypotheses were then communicated in public forums and
public communications with agency stakeholders. Although legitimate concerns and even
cautious support regarding management experiments using nonnative plants were found through
public communications with agency personnel, significant institutional rigidities apparently
associated with non-contextual attributions of harm to nonnative species also were encountered.
The chapter concludes by suggesting that research and agency scientists should work closely
with local citizens to set up controlled experiments in which phytoremediation and alternative
management approaches towards nonnative macrophytes could be obj ectively evaluated as
potentially useful tools in an overall ecological restoration program in Kings Bay.
History of Nuisance Aquatic Plants in Kings Bay: 1950 2005
Management of "nuisance" aquatic plants has been an issue of great controversy and
central importance within the Kings Bay ecosystem for many decades. Although published
literature on Kings Bay largely focuses on the introduction of hydrilla in the early 1960s and
persistent L. wollei blooms that began in the mid-1980s (SWFWMD 2004), four long-time
Crystal River residents gave very similar first hand accounts indicating that aquatic plant
problems actually began in the early 1950s with the proliferation of water hyacinth mats
throughout many areas of Kings Bay and Crystal River.
Water hyacinth is a free-floating macrophyte species native to South America that has
become naturalized throughout many subtropical and tropical regions of the world over the past
100 years, and is commonly known as the "world's worst aquatic weed" due to its ability to
become invasive in waters with high levels of natural or anthropogenic nutrients (Gopal 1987).
Before turning to the specific remembrances of water hyacinth management in Kings Bay, it is
necessary to contextualize this management within the history of this plant and its control in
Florida. Schmitz et al. (1993, 173) note that water hyacinth became the first serious plant "pest"
in Florida soon after its introduction to the St. John's River in 1880s, with its spread greatly
aided by "cattlemen who held the mistaken belief that it made good cattle feed." Large
obstructions caused by hyacinths piling up around bridges were noted as soon as 1895, and
control operations based upon crushing, diversion, and removal of water hyacinth from the St.
Johns River by the USACE began with the passage of the Rivers and Harbors Act in 1899
(Schmitz et al. 1993). By 1902, amendments to the Rivers and Harbors Act allowed for
extermination of water hyacinths using a variety of chemicals such as sodium arsenite, sulfuric
acid, carbolic acid, and kerosene (Schmitz et al. 1993). However, Buker (1982) notes that these
control methods were soon rejected due to toxicity to cows, and mechanical harvest became the
primary method of control throughout most of the early 20th century. The first trials of the
herbicide 2,4-D began in the mid 1940s, and the USACE began to employ 2,4-D against water
hyacinth in Florida by 1948 (Schmitz et al. 1993). This new herbicide was seen as an important
advance in the battle against water hyacinth due to its combination of strong herbicidal properties
and low acute toxicity to cattle and other animals (Joyce 1982). At its peak in the late 1950s,
water hyacinth was estimated to cover more than 50,000 hectares in Florida (Schmitz et al.
1993). Since the late 1950s, water hyacinth has been progressively controlled in Florida over the
past 50 years by federal, state, and local officials through treatment programs based largely upon
2,4-D and other aquatic herbicides.
The water hyacinth growth throughout Kings Bay during the 1950s was described by all
four informants as making navigation through some parts of Kings Bay and Crystal River very
difficult at times. Similar accounts among the informants suggest that these navigational issues
triggered the onset of an aggressive water hyacinth eradication program using broadcast
herbicides in the mid to late 1950s, a control program that all informants described as being
locally popular due to the various problems that came to be associated with hyacinth overgrowth.
While it must be noted that no specific records indicating the extent of the hyacinth coverage or
the types and amounts of chemicals that may have been used at Kings Bay/Crystal River for
hyacinth treatment in the 1950s have been located, common practice for this era indicates that
one acre of water hyacinth would likely have been treated with approximately 2 pounds of acid-
equivalent 2,4-D (Zeiger 1962).
Informants also suggested that water hyacinth had been known in Kings Bay and Crystal
River for many years, but, unlike many other areas of Florida, was not considered a particularly
invasive or nuisance species in Kings Bay before the 1950s. In fact, one of the informants, a
retired fisher, indicated that he had always considered water hyacinth "a very useful plant"
because of his contention that large concentrations of shrimp and other "bait" could reliably be
found in the hyacinth roots (see Tilghman 1962, 1963; Maltby 1963 for similar historical
accounts on the St. Johns River). Even after the water hyacinth mats began to proliferate, the
clear consensus among the four residents with recollection of this period is that the water clarity
of the open water areas of Kings Bay was as high as it had been previously or has ever been
since that time. In addition, all reported that the beginning of water hyacinth control operations
seemed to have undesirable impacts on the ecology of Kings Bay, including a perceived
relationship between the loss of water hyacinth, a decline in water clarity, and the subsequent
proliferation of another nuisance weed hydrilla.
If these remembrances about water hyacinth in Kings Bay/Crystal River circa 1950s are an
accurate representation of the ecological changes that occurred during this time, there would
appear to be a fairly straightforward explanation for the changed growth behavior of the water
hyacinth and the observed effects of its control. It is known that the 1950s marked the beginning
of largescale shoreline and watershed development around Kings Bay, which is thought to have
resulted in substantial increases of nutrient loadings from wastewater and fertilizer sources into
the water body (SWFWMD 2004). As can be visually deduced by comparing an aerial
photograph of Kings Bay taken in 1944 (Figure 4-4) with one taken in 1960 (Figure 4-5), many
shoreline alterations that destroyed fringing wetlands and directly resulted in increased sediment
loading into Kings Bay were associated with this development period (SWFWMD 2004). The
increased input of sediments and nutrients, disturbance of circulation patterns, and destruction of
fringing marshes associated with this development would be expected to provide ideal conditions
for water hyacinth to enter into a period of exponential, or invasive, growth (Gopal 1987; Odum
1994). Although this exponential growth clearly would be expected to cause navigational
problems similar to those reported by interview informants, the ability of water hyacinth to
sequester large amounts of soluble nutrients (Agami and Reddy 1990; Tripathi et al. 1991; Panda
and Kar 1996; Sooknah and Wilkie 2004), filter algae and other particulates in its fibrous roots
(Kim et al. 2001), and suppress phytoplankton blooms through allelopathy and other mechanisms
(Jin et al. 2003) may have helped maintain much of the water clarity and submerged aquatic
vegetation in the remaining open water areas (Hu et al. 1998) of Kings Bay.
While herbicides are quite effective in suppressing problem water hyacinth populations,
this control method also is known to release large amounts of nutrients and other contaminants
from the dying plants into the water column and bottom sediments (Reddy and Sacco 1981).
Thus, chemical control of water hyacinth particularly over large areas often can be followed
by large algae blooms (Clugston 1963; Chesnut and Barman 1974; Brower 1980; Grimshaw
2002) and/or explosive growth of highly productive submersed plants such as hydrilla (USACE
1973), both of which may cause problems of a similar or even worse magnitude as those
associated with the original water hyacinth growth.
Such a general relationship appears to have held in Kings Bay as the successful control of
water hyacinth was almost immediately replaced by explosive growth of the submersed hydrilla.
Hydrilla is a submersed macrophyte species native to Africa and Southeast Asia that spread
throughout the world in the latter part of the 20th Century, largely due to its historic popularity
within the aquarium trade and prolific growth capabilities within a wide range of environmental
conditions. The appearance of hydrilla within Kings Bay/Crystal River circa 1960 marks one of
the earliest of this invasive nonnative species within Florida (SWFWMD 2000). Since that time
hydrilla has quickly spread to become a severe nuisance species within many aquatic systems in
Florida and the southeastern United States.
Interview accounts indicate that the rapid growth and great spatial extent of the initial
hydrilla invasion within Kings Bay quickly resulted in a range of environmental and navigation
problems that dwarfed those previously associated with water hyacinth, thereby making hydrilla
control the new aquatic plant management priority within the ecosystem. Although the growth
and spread of hydrilla within Kings Bay perhaps was inevitable after its introduction, work by
Fontaine (1978) suggests that enriched sediments deposited by previously treated water hyacinth
mats would be expected to exacerbate the subsequent problems posed by the growth of the
submersed species. In addition, the extreme hydrologic disturbance and creation of "bare"
aquatic habitat associated with the dredging of numerous canals in Kings Bay in the 1960s and
1970s (Figure 4-6) likely were additional factors that facilitated the rapid spread of hydrilla over
Early hydrilla control efforts in Kings Bay were varied and largely ineffective, including a
now notorious attempt to control hydrilla through the application of large amounts of sulfuric
acid obtained from a nearby phosphate mine into several areas of Kings Bay. While an initial
report indicated somewhat favorable results from the sulfuric acid treatment method (Phillipy
1966), aquatic plant managers later suggested that this treatment had only temporary effects on
hydrilla and severe detrimental effects on both fish and desirable aquatic vegetation (Friedman
1987). A more long-term hydrilla treatment program using a combination of copper-based and
several other types of herbicide formulations was instituted in the 1970s and continued
throughout much of the 1980s (Haller et al. 1983). However, this program also was considered
by many citizens and managers to be ineffective and counter-productive (Dick 1989), and copper
herbicides eventually were discontinued as a hydrilla control strategy after elevated levels of
copper were detected in Kings Bay's sediments and the organs of deceased manatees (O' Shea et
al. 1984; Facemire 1991; Leslie 1992; SWFWMD 2000). A hydrilla management program based
upon shredding, mechanical harvest in navigational trails, and limited application of non-copper
containing herbicide formulations of diquat, endothall, and flurodine was instituted in the late
1980s (Dick 1989; Cowell and Botts 1994) and remains the foundation of the current hydrilla
management plan within Kings Bay (Anonymous 2005).
Noticeable blooms of filamentous algae such as L. wollei were first recorded in Kings Bay
in the late 1970s and early 1980s (SWFWMD 2004), but, likely due to the continued dominance
of hydrilla, the coverage and persistence of these blooms reportedly remained at low levels for
several years (Dick 1989). Large scale L. wollei blooms throughout Kings Bay were first
reported in September 1985, soon after temporary salinity increases associated with the storm
surge of Hurricane Elena reduced the hydrilla population in Kings Bay by over 90% (Dick 1989;
SWFWMD 2004). Despite the historic problems associated with water hyacinth and hydrilla, the
emergent L. wollei invasion was almost universally regarded as having even more deleterious
effects on wildlife habitat, recreational desirability, and overall aesthetics within Kings Bay
Almost all informants interviewed indicated that hydrilla populations recovered and L.
wollei blooms progressively lessened for several years after the 1985 storm surge (see also
Cowell and Botts 1994). However, ongoing aquatic plant management activities (Cowell and
Botts 1994) and additional storm surges associated with the "Storm of the Century" in March
1993 resulted in further displacement of hydrilla in Kings Bay (Bishop 1995; SWFWMD 2004).
While the 1993 storm surge also reportedly resulted in temporary declines of L. wollei and
increased coverage of more salt-tolerant macrophytes such as Eurasian milfoil and native tape
grass throughout many areas of Kings Bay (SWFWMD 2004), L. wollei quickly rebounded to
become an almost complete monoculture throughout the north central, northeastern, and
southeastern portions of Kings Bay (Frazer and Hale 2001). Submersed macrophyte communities
dominated largely by Eurasian milfoil with interspersed hydrilla, tape grass, and small amounts
of several other native species persist in the central, south central, southwestern, and
northwestern sections of Kings Bay (Frazer and Hale 2001). However, almost all interview
informants indicate that these macrophyte communities are increasingly impacted by the effects
of intensive manatee grazing throughout the winter and smothering associated with ecosystem-
wide blooms of L. wollei in the spring and summer.
Factors Related to Lynzgbya wollei Dominance
The underlying factors that resulted in the establishment and persistence of the L. wollei
community currently observed throughout many areas of Kings Bay are not well understood.
While some state agencies suggest that L. wollei is an invasive nonnative species that was
introduced into Kings Bay in the early 1980s (SWFWMD 2004), very little evidence to support
this claim, aside from the invasive behavior exhibited by L. wollei, currently exists. Whitford's
(1956) work in which five specific Lyngbya strains and a general category of undifferentiated
Lyngbya sp. were identified within Florida springs ecosystems, including Kings Bay/Crystal
River, indicates that L. wollei is more likely an indigenous cyanobacteria species that has