Florida is known for its beautiful waterways and marshlands, so invasive aquatic plants are particularly threatening to Florida’s environment. In Crystal River, there are four main invasive aquatic plants: water hyacinth, water lettuce, hydrilla, and lyngbya.
Crystal River is known for its unique wildlife and picturesque sawgrass prairies. Some wildlife, like the manatees, can be safely observed up close, but other wildlife, like gators or snakes, should be observed from a safe distance. Many snakes inhabit the sawgrasses and can swim through water. Some are harmless, but some are deadly. In this post I’ll give you a rundown of the most common venomous snakes in Crystal River and how to avoid getting bitten.
Crystal River has become saltier because of saltwater intrusion. As developments pump freshwater out of the aquifer for drinking or irrigation, the saltwater aquifers under the freshwater aquifers begin to seep into the freshwater and contaminate it. Draining the aquifer not only leads to contaminated waters, but it also decreases spring venting and causes devastating sinkholes.
You’ve probably seen those sandy lines along the river floor, running through the eelgrass (see picture above). These scars are caused by boat propellers. Scars can also be formed by using hooked anchors that uproot native eelgrass and leave sandy patches in the riverbed. While many boaters believe scraping the bottom is no problem, it takes time for eelgrass to grow back. Often, Save Crystal River will intervene and patch the scars before they fill with gunk and detritus.
In the summer, tourists flood to Crystal River to spend their days scalloping in the Gulf of Mexico, but due to over-catching and degrading water quality, the number of bay scallops has greatly decreased over the past ten years.
Species diversity in sawgrass is limited, but it fosters lots of life. Typically, alligators use sawgrass to nest. Sawgrasses not only provide habitat, but they also provide a place of refuge for any animal trying to escape the Florida sun or a pursuing predator. One species I didn’t expect to see were barnacles on my dock posts. Due to the rising salinity levels of Crystal River, the once freshwater part of King’s Bay I live on has become salty enough to support barnacles and other, more dangerous, saltwater species.
Next time you’re out at Three Sisters or any other spring, think about how the water you’re swimming through, or paddling on, is rainwater, filtered and cooled through rock, colored by minerals, and reflecting dissolved earth crystals and the blue sky. You’re not only swimming through the water we drink and wash our hands with, but also one of nature’s miracles. No wonder the manatees love it!
While Save Crystal River’s efforts to plant eelgrass does not reduce salinity, the grasses themselves have the capacity to thrive in both saltwater and freshwater. Along with this survival ability, eelgrass helps hold sediment at the bottom of the river floor, which reduces overall turbidity of the water. These traits make eelgrass perfect for restoring Crystal River’s clarity and providing a stable environment for indigenous wildlife.