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Harmless plants could be a clue to bigger issues with water quality

Imagine stepping out in your backyard and seeing tiny, floating plants. They’re harmless, but can be a clue to a bigger issue with the water.

Louise Kowitch spends her time biking around historic Bonita Springs, but last weekend, the green stuff in Oak Creek caught the clean water advocate’s eye.

“And that really disturbed me,” she said.

After sending us some photos, we checked out the creek and brought a sample to FGCU’s Doctor Barry Rosen.

Just as Kowitch and Rosen suspected, the tiny, floating, aquatic plants are duckweed.

“It is natural. The density is probably because of nutrients,” Rosen explained, meaning it could be a sign of something else going on in the water.

“They love nutrients. They thrive on nutrients, whether it’s lawn fertilizers or organic fertilizer, let’s say from cows or cattle. You see them a lot of time in ditches,” Rosen said.

While it can indicate excess nutrients, Rosen says duckweed itself is harmless and could potentially prevent a different problem.

“The good part of having duckweed on the surface is that you’re blocking light, which prevents the phytoplankton underneath, the ones that can form a harmful algal bloom,” Rosen said.

Either way, Kowitch will be biking and watching.

“Without clean water, we do not have the kind of quality of life that natives, newcomers and tourists all seek in the Florida lifestyle,” she said, and helping to keep our water clean.

Rosen checked our sample for algae as well. He said the water itself is relatively clean. He didn’t see anything and said if it’s there, it’s probably a low amount.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
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