Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Algae-eating native freshwater snails: 'Little janitor' merits attention in Florida springs health debate

Date:
July 29, 2014
Source:
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Summary:
For decades, crystal-clear water bubbling from the ground has driven Florida tourism, via scuba divers, canoeists, boaters and swimmers, but today, many of those springs aren't healthy. Although the blame for algae-choked springs is often pinned on excess nitrate, scientists say the absence of algae-eating native freshwater snails known as Elimia may be a key to restoring the springs' health.

The Elimia snail is an unheralded player in the health of North Central Florida springs, UF/IFAS researchers have found.
Credit: Photograph courtesy of Chris Lukhaup.

A small, slow moving resident who enjoys a vegetative diet and keeps things tidy may be the overlooked player in public debates over Florida's ailing freshwater springs, University of Florida researchers say.

Related Articles


North Florida has the world's highest concentration of large freshwater springs. For decades, crystal-clear water bubbling from the ground has driven tourism in the form of scuba divers, canoeists, boaters and swimmers, but today, many of those springs don't bubble like they used to; green scum often obliterates the view.

Although the blame for algae-choked springs is often pinned on excess nitrate, the scientists say the absence of algae-eating native freshwater snails known as Elimia -- which UF researcher Dina Liebowitz calls the "little janitor of the springs" -- may be a key factor. Elimia may be a key to restoring the springs' health.

Nitrate, which has gotten the lion's share of attention in springs-health discussions, enters the aquifer and emerges at the springs from municipal sewage treatment and disposal, agricultural and residential fertilizer use, livestock farms and residential septic systems.

Matthew Cohen, a UF associate professor and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member who specializes in ecohydrology, says while controlling nitrate is a worthy goal, doing that alone "will not be enough to restore springs ecology."

Cohen's former doctoral student, Liebowitz, now a postdoctoral researcher at the California Ocean Science Trust, spent nearly six years studying the springs. She and colleagues collected samples at 11 springs with high and low levels of nitrates, oxygen and algae.

In all, they took hundreds of samples from three parts of each spring, at different times of the year, she said.

Among the study's strongest findings, outlined in a paper posted online this month by the journal Freshwater Biology, was a strong negative correlation between snails and algae, Liebowitz said: Where they found more snails, in general, there was less algae.

And their later experiments found that the snails could keep algae from accumulating in the springs.

That doesn't mean that other factors aren't part of the equation, she said, "but it suggests pretty strongly that snails are an important factor in keeping algae levels down."

The researchers say, however, the ecosystem may resist restoration if the amount of algae present is more than they can graze back to low levels.

That means even if snail populations bounce back, mature algae would need to be cleared for snails to keep the young algae in check, she said.

While snail population declines have been well-documented in the southeastern United States, there are only a few older studies Liebowitz could use as a baseline, but her study found far fewer snails than were reported before.

Studies suggest pesticides and herbicides could be partly to blame for the snails' decline, she said.

The researchers also examined whether oxygen levels at locations in and near springs had any correlation with snail population and found a connection. Water oxygen levels can drop during drought or when humans are pumping out the "new" water at the top of the aquifer, she said.

Besides Cohen and Liebowitz, the research team included former UF postdoctoral researcher James Heffernan; Lawrence Korhnak, a UF senior biological scientist and Tom Frazer, director of the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment.

The National Science Foundation and the St. Johns River Water Management District funded the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Dina M. Liebowitz, Matthew J. Cohen, James B. Heffernan, Lawrence V. Korhnak, Thomas K. Frazer. Environmentally-mediated consumer control of algal proliferation in Florida springs. Freshwater Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/fwb.12403

Cite This Page:

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Algae-eating native freshwater snails: 'Little janitor' merits attention in Florida springs health debate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115158.htm>.
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (2014, July 29). Algae-eating native freshwater snails: 'Little janitor' merits attention in Florida springs health debate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115158.htm
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Algae-eating native freshwater snails: 'Little janitor' merits attention in Florida springs health debate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115158.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins