Matthew Cohen, a University of Florida professor of forest water resources and watershed systems, is not entirely a contrarian when it comes to the cause of run-away algae growth in the region’s springs, but while scientists focus on nutrients as the culprit, Cohen is providing some different food for thought.
Oxygen is Cohen’s theory. He suggests that the low flow of chilly oxygen-rich water from the aquifer allows warmer, tannin-darkened, acidic river water to dominate.
That altered chemistry results in less oxygen, which kills off vital aquatic vegetation such as eelgrass and allows algae to grow crazy. It’s not good for grazers either — snails in the springs serve the same purpose as snails in aquariums.
“There has just been tacit acceptance of that (nitrate) hypothesis when the evidence is quite weak and we are not fixing the other things that might be problematic,” Cohen said. “I’ve been very careful to not argue that we should just pollute the water. I don’t say that, I don’t think that. But the evidence of (nitrate) as a cause is weak and I believe that, based on the evidence we’ve obtained, we should have some alternative hypotheses.”Learn more about Why So Much Ugly Algae in Our Springs? A UF Professor Has a Novel Answer.