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Water flows and fire; experts say they're related

Decades of water flows impact Florida vegetation
Posted: 10:26 AM, May 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-09 10:26:20-04

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — As we take a deeper looking into #ProtectingParadise, we hope to bring you perspectives about our environment that you may not have previously considered.

Think about our water.
We drink it.
We love boating on it.
We shower in it.

It’s a life source, and we just one from of life that depends on it. The habitats around us need it, and how water flows throughout the region matters. It’s not just because we need it to survive, but also because of the way it flows into and throughout our region affects our ecosystem.

Thomas Hecker, Executive Director/CEO, of Everglades Wonder Garden says the original flows of water in our area provided a sufficient amount of water to our vegetation. But, we (humans) altered that.

“Florida was designed so that it was a sheet flow from Southwest Florida from Lake Okeechobee to Naples and Fort Myers. We came in and channelized and made canals where it drains way much quicker, and the soil dries out much faster.”

He says it changed the soil type - allowing plants (both native and non-native) - to expand their habitat.

Dr. Mike Knight from the Florida Forest Service agrees.

“The human-induced changes in water, water flows, water quality have had cascading effects”, Knight says.

Consider this. We’re not just talking about non-natives like melaleuca. This includes Florida natives like the sabal palm (cabbage palm) to become invasive. It then thrives in areas where it was not previously seen - causing even more concern.

“It can create very large catastrophic wildfires, as opposed to what used to be historically…a low-intensity fire”, Dr. Knight tells FOX 4.

Fires that can damage an ecosystem, and therefore, kill wildlife habitats.

Dr. Knight says the service is working to fix what it can. They are eradicating old canals, restoring the natural sheet flow, improving habitats, clearing out underbrush and re-planting pine trees.

“If we don’t do something now, we’re setting ourselves up for problems five ten years down the road.”

Here are few ways you can protect your home, according to Dr. Knight:

-Know what’s growing in your backyard.

-Get rid of the non-native plants (melaleuca, for example)

-Keep a safe distance between your home and any vegetation outside.

- You can also find more information on www.floridainvasives.org .