Lee County, Florida
In Southwest Florida, increasing population densities combined with aging wastewater infrastructure and extreme weather events have led to deteriorating water quality conditions. As such, bacterial contamination and harmful algal blooms have resulted in closures of water bodies for recreational use. One of the major sources of freshwater in Southwest Florida, the Caloosahatchee River, is impaired for nutrients, chlorophyll a, dissolved oxygen, and fecal coliforms.
Along the river in Lee County, North Fort Myers has experienced persistent bacterial pollution at North Shore Park. To address this human health issue, Lee County Division of Natural Resources, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute-Florida Atlantic University conducted a microbial source tracking (MST) study to determine contributing factors to this persistent bacterial pollution.
Macroalgal blooms have also increased globally in recent decades as a result of increased nutrient enrichment and eutrophication of coastal waters. In Lee County, FL, this problem reached a critical stage in 2003 and 2004 when massive drift rhodophyte blooms washed ashore between Sanibel Island and Bonita Springs, making beaches unsuitable for recreation and requiring an expensive removal program.
To better understand the ecology of these blooms, water quality and macroalgae sampling was conducted in early August 2004 prior to hurricane Charley and again in late October following several months of heavy discharges from the Caloosahatchee River. During both samplings, water and macroalgae were collected along a gradient extending from the Caloosahatchee River to natural and artificial reefs some 26 km from shore.