FGCU scientists studying ways to combat algae growth in SWFL waterways

SWFL scientists want to go natural in order to combat green algae in Florida’s waterways. And they want to see if saw grass is the answer to cleaning up that murky water.

It’s an idea that, if it works, could completely change the landscape of SWFL’s most precious resources.

“Anyone who has put a boat in the water and has got green muck on their oar or propeller will understand this,” said Dr. Bill Mitsch.

Images of green, slimy water are familiar to Floridians who live near Lake Okeechobee.

Scientists say it comes from fertilizer-ridden agricultural runoff. It’s the catalyst for Mitsch’s research.

“This project will benefit everyone wherever we have polluted water and we need to clean it up,” Mitsch said.

Bins used to simulate the Florida Everglades landscape have saw grass planted inside. Mitsch and his team of graduate students use water that mimics agricultural runoff to flow through it.

They’ll measure the nutrients going in, and the nutrients going out.

“We call wetlands kidneys of the landscape. They do the exact thing kidneys do in our bodies. They clean things up,” Mitsch said.

If enough nutrients stay inside the soil, Mitsch claims it can be used as fertilizer itself, instead of over-saturating the land with more fertilizer. A farmer could then “flip” that soil and use it to plant crops.

“If it works at this scale, it can work at 100,000 acres,” Mitsch said.

This is just the beginning of a 10-year study.

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