Florida is home to over 2.5 million acres of fresh water available in the form of lakes, rivers and streams, springs, man-made canals, and wetlands. Within these aquatic environments, invasive plants threaten native species and habitats, flood control structures, natural areas and resources, and recreation. Without management of invasive aquatic plants, boats would not be able to navigate, people could not safely swim, fish populations would be stunted or move elsewhere, bird populations would be threatened, tourists might go elsewhere, and agriculture crops and neighborhoods could be flooded during storm events.
The following is a quick overview of the unique types of waterbodies found in Florida.
Note: Individual pages are coming soon to describe each one in greater detail.
Canals in Cape Coral, FL
Thousands of miles of canals, and their water control structures, are carved into Florida’s landscape, especially in the southeastern part of the state. Canals are artificial waterways that modify existing rivers or streams, or are dug into wetlands or uplands for navigation, drainage and flood control, irrigation, access, and recreation. Florida canals range from a few feet to hundreds of feet wide and from a few feet to as deep as 35 feet.
Lakes and Ponds
Orlando area lake
The nearly 8,000 lakes in Florida are some of the most biologically rich systems in the world. Each lake in Florida is a unique combination of ecologic, morphologic, hydrologic, and geologic qualities. From the clear sandhill lakes of the “high” Florida ridge, to the green life-filled lakes of the “valleys”, each plays crucial roles in irrigation, flood control, drinking water supply, recreation, navigation, and as habitats for plants and wildlife.
Several thousand of our lakes and ponds were naturally formed eons ago through geologic processes; thousands more are artificial, constructed in housing developments, shopping centers and golf courses. They vary widely in shape, depth, and size, as well as in water chemistry and quality. Sinkhole lakes are a primary site of recharge, where surface water can enter the aquifer and replenish the groundwater supply.
Florida’s climate and nutrient-rich soils provide year-round growing seasons for aquatic plants and animals in these waterbodies. This means Florida lakes are even more susceptible to invasive plants and algae blooms. Proper plant management in freshwater lakes is an important element in maintaining healthy lake ecosystems and ensuring their intended functions.
Nearly 1,700 rivers and streams stretch across the state. Ranging from a few feet to a couple of miles wide, these freshwater veins carve into the limestone bedrock, shaping Florida’s distinctive karst topography. Florida rivers are the lifelines for many of the state’s swamps, marshes, lagoons, and estuaries.
Visit the Rivers page for more information.
Springs and Aquifers
Springs represent major discharge areas, where groundwater is forced to the surface due to pressure from confining bed of impermeable sediments. Releasing eight billion gallons of freshwater each day, Florida has the most productive spring system in the world. Over 600 springs have been documented and geologists estimate that hundreds more are waiting to be discovered. The majority of Florida’s springs are found in central and north-central Florida—part of the Floridan aquifer system, one of five main aquifers in the state. These underground aquifers are the reservoirs for Florida’s natural water filtration systems providing nearly 100% of the state’s drinking water and more than 60% of the state’s freshwater usage in agriculture and industry. Groundwater released from our aquifers, either through springs or man-made wells and pumping stations, sustains thousands of ecosystems and is an essential resource for human health, outdoor recreation, industry and agriculture.
Wetlands are the transition zones between dry upland ecosystems and deeper aquatic habitats. Nearly one third of Florida’s wetlands are comprised of marsh ecosystems–delicate habitats possessing significant scientific, ecologic, and economic value. Other Florida wetlands include swamps, which can be described as wetlands with trees, having saturated soils and standing water for at least part of the year. A unique recipe of multiple groundwater sources, frequent natural fires, and flat karst topography allows Florida to have the most diverse mosaic of swamp habitats of any place in the world. Combined, these different types of wetlands are crucial for maintaining the health of many of Florida’s aquatic ecosystems; they provide flood control, aquifer recharge, coastal protection, and they also act as “kidneys” that help filter pollutants from the ecosystem.