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Fertilizers and pesticides used on residential and commercial landscapes are harming Florida's waterways. Find out how you can reduce your impact in your front and back yards.

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Relating to sand, gravel or other material deposited by a stream or running water.


Fish species that hatch in fresh water streams and rivers, migrate downstream to the ocean where they grow into adults, and return to fresh water to spawn.


A condition characterized by a complete lack of oxygen.


Caused by humans.

Aquatic Preserve

In 1975, the Florida Legislature enacted the Aquatic Preserve Act to designate "submerged lands of exceptional beauty, to ensure that 'their aesthetic, biological, and scientific values may endure for the enjoyment of future generations.' Today, Florida has 41 aquatic preserves, encompassing almost 2 million acres. All but 4 are located along Florida's 8,400 miles of coastline in the shallow waters of marshes and estuaries.


An underground layer of permeable rock or unconsolidated material (such as gravel, sand, clay, or silt) that contains water. Florida's primary source of drinking water.


A group of islands located closely together in a chain or cluster.

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The amount of water in a river or stream originating from ground water.


Bottom dwelling.

Benthic Index

A system used by scientists to grade an ecosystem's health, based on the types and numbers of aquatic insects found in bottom sediments.

Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)

The amount of dissolved oxygen (DO) used by aquatic microorganisms to decompose organic waste such as dead plants, leaves, grass clippings, manure, or sewage. If there is a large quantity of organic waste in the water, the demand for oxygen is high (due to all the bacteria), and thus the BOD level is high. As the waste is consumed or dispersed, BOD levels decline. The nutrients nitrate and phosphate in a waterbody can contribute to high BOD by causing plants and algae to grow quickly. Plants that grow quickly also die quickly; bacteria decompose the organic waste, resulting in a high BOD level. When BOD is high, DO levels decrease, because bacteria consume the oxygen that is available in the water. As a result, fish and other aquatic organisms may not survive.

Biosphere Reserve

These sites, recognized under the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Programme, provide innovative approaches to conservation and sustainable development. Currently, there are 531 sites worldwide in 105 countries.


A river that is deeply colored by the tannins in decaying vegetation as it flows through swamps and wetlands. Blackwaters are usually high in acidity, low in nutrients, and transparent.


Real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

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Cody Scarp

The Cody Scarp is an ancient shoreline left behind when sea levels were much higher than they are today. Tallahassee residents know the Cody Scarp as the series of hills that descend when traveling south from the city toward Wakulla County.

Coliform Bacteria

Bacteria commonly found in the intestines and used as an indicator of water contamination by human or animal wastes.


Living in a colony.

Critical Wildlife Areas

The Florida Critical Wildlife Program began in 1977. These areas are posted against human, domestic animal, and vehicular trespass during certain periods of the year, to protect concentrations of one or more wildlife species that are in danger of becoming extinct. The designation provides special protection for sites such as shorebird-nesting colonies, where the potential for damage from human activities is imminent. The program is a partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (formerly the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission) and the property owners of the sites.

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Resembling the structure of a tree, with many small branches joining a single main stem.


Complex, single-celled organisms that have the characteristics of both animals and plants, dinoflagellates mainly live in a marine environment. In warm, shallow, nutrient-rich waters, they can reproduce in enormous numbers, called a bloom. Some species, such as red tide, produce a powerful nerve toxin that can kill large numbers of fish and can also contaminate shellfish, making it toxic to humans.

Dissolved Oxygen (DO)

The amount of oxygen available in a waterbody for use by fish and other aquatic life.

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A small bay or or bay-like formation.


Existing nowhere else in the world.


Nutrient enrichment in a lake, caused by natural and human factors, that accelerates plant growth and can reduce oxygen levels in the water. Lower levels of oxygen in turn affect the types and numbers of species that are present. Higher levels of nutrients cause a lake to age and fill in at an accelerated rate. When caused by humans, this process of accelerated aging is called cultural eutrophication.


An important part of the hydrologic cycle through which all water on earth moves. Evapotranspiration is the process of evaporation and plant transpiration from the surface into the atmosphere.

Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)

An area of agricultural lands covering approximately 1,158 square miles extending south from Lake Okeechobee to the northern levee of Water Conservation Area 3A, from its eastern boundary at the L-8 canal to the western boundary along the L-1, L-2, and L-3 levees.

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Fecal coliform

Bacteria commonly found in the feces of mammals and used as an indicator of water contamination by human or animal wastes.


Clumps of particles suspended in a liquid.

Floridan Aquifer

The underground layer of permeable rock (primarily limestone) that contains water. The Floridan aquifer is the state's primary source of drinking water and water used for agriculture. It is one of the largest and most productive aquifers in the world.

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Requiring abundant quantities of water.

Hydropattern (or Hydroperiod)

Cyclical changes in the amount or level of water in a waterbody or wetland.


A nutrient-rich lake that supports large quantities of aquatic plants and animals. Hypereutrophic lakes typically have low visibility and frequent, severe algal blooms. The algae die and decompose, lowering dissolved oxygen levels in the water and causing fish kills.


A condition characterized by low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, primarily caused by excess nutrients that promote algal growth. The decomposing algae consume oxygen, so that not enough is available to support aquatic life.

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Without a backbone.

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An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns.

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Littoral Zone

The land immediately adjacent to a lake, river or bay define by the high and low water marks.


A hairlike, filamentous alga that grows in large mats on the surface and bottom of a waterbody.

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Aquatic invertebrates that are larger than half a millimeter in size. They live in water on rocks, logs, sediment, and plants - during some part of their life cycle, feeding on plant material and bacteria in the water. In turn, they provide an important food sources for fish and other aquatic species. Macroinvertebrates include crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic worms, and aquatic insects such as stonefly and mayfly nymphs.


Rooted and floating aquatic plants that are large enough to be perceived or examined by the unaided eye.

Mangrove Swamps

Low-lying coastal swamps where mangrove trees grow. They function as nurseries for shrimp and recreational fisheries, and their physical stability helps to prevent shoreline erosion, shielding inland areas from severe damage during hurricanes and tidal waves.


A moderately moist habitat.

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National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR)

A national network of protected areas established for long-term research, education, and stewardship. A partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and coastal states, NERR protects more than 1 million acres of estuarine land and water; provides essential habitat for wildlife; offers educational opportunities for students, teachers and the public; and serves as living laboratories for scientists. Florida contains 3 of the 20 NERRs nationwide.

National Geodetic Vertical Datum (NGVD)

The vertical datum consists of a group of points on the Earth's surface whose heights above or below mean sea level are known. These benchmark points can be used to determine the elevation at another location, through a process called differential leveling. In 1929, the National Geodetic Survey compiled all of the benchmarks, creating the National Geodetic Vertical Datum.

National Natural Landmark

The National Natural Landmarks Program recognizes and encourages the conservation of outstanding examples of the natural history of the United States. It is the only natural areas program of national scope that identifies and recognizes the best examples of biological and geological features in both public and private ownership. These landmarks are designated by the Secretary of the Interior, with the owner's concurrence. To date, fewer than 600 sites have been designated.

National Wildlife Refuge

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of habitats managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to benefit wildlife, provide outdoor experiences for all Americans, and protect a healthy environment. President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903. Currently, there are 548 wildlife refuges and more than 36,000 fee and easement waterfowl production areas nationwide. There is at least one wildlife refuge in each of the 50 states, and one within an hour's drive of every major U.S. city. These protected areas are home to diverse animal and plant species, many of which are threatened or endangered. They are used by millions of migrating birds each year.


A plant nutrient and inorganic fertilizer, nitrate is found in septic systems, animal feed lots, agricultural and residential fertilizers, manure, industrial waste waters, sanitary landfills, and garbage dumps. Excess nitrates in water can lead to harmful plant and algae growth in rivers, lakes and estuaries.

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Containing low levels of dissolved nutrients.

Outstanding Florida Water (OFW)

An OFW is a water designated worthy of special protection because of its natural attributes. This special designation is applied to certain waters and is intended to protect existing good water quality. Most OFWs are areas managed by the state or federal government as parks, including wildlife refuges, preserves, marine sanctuaries, estuarine research reserves, certain waters in state or national forests, scenic and wild rivers, or aquatic preserves. Generally, the waters in these managed areas are OFWs because the managing agency has requested this special protection. Waters that are not already in a state or federal managed area may be designated as 'special water' OFWs if certain requirements are met, including a public process of designation.


A U-shaped bend in a river or stream.

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A system that lies above the water table, underlain by less permeable soils and rock.

Pollutant Load Reduction Goals (PLRG)

An estimated numeric goal for reducing the amount of a specific stormwater pollutant in a lake, river or stream so that the waterbody meets its designated use, such as swimming, fishing, or recreation. PLRGs are adopted by the water management districts as part of a SWIM plan, other watershed plan, or rule. They provide benchmarks for directing restoration strategies and for measuring their success.


The level to which water rises in an aquifer. For an unconfined aquifer the potentiometric surface is the water table; for a confined aquifer it is the level to which water naturally rises in a well.

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The remnant of a feature that was once present on the land surface.

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The movement of water across the land surface in a shallow, sheetlike mass instead of within deeper channels or streambeds.


The management of tree harvesting and planting.


A depression associated with swamps and marshlands containing areas of slightly deeper water and a slow current, such as the broad, shallow rivers of the Everglades.

Solution Basin

A shallow lake that forms on the land surface when water dissolves underlying limestone formations.

Spring-run River

Rivers whose water comes primarily from aquifer springs. Typically, their river channels follow fracture patterns in the limestone, and their waters are clear and are similar to ground water in chemical composition. The water is highly buffered by the limestone and has a neutral pH. In areas near spring vents, dissolved oxygen levels may be low because of the ground water contribution. Spring-fed rivers and streams respond more slowly than alluvial streams to rainfall, and some disappear back underground.


In 1987 the Florida Legislature created the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Act to protect, restore and maintain Florida's highly threatened surface water bodies. Under this act, the state's five water management districts identify a list of priority water bodies within their authority and implement plans to improve them.

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Natural substances found in decaying organic material.

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)

A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can assimilate and remain healthy and meet designated uses such as drinking water, recreation and shellfishing. Under Section 303(d) of the 1972 federal Clean Water Act and the 1999 Florida Watershed Restoration Act, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection must establish TMDLs for all rivers, lakes and streams that are impaired and develop plans to reduce pollutants and restore the impaired water bodies.


An organism's position in the food chain or food web of a biological community.


A cloudy condition in water due to suspended silt or organic matter.


A clump of herbaceous plants that floats on the surface of a waterbody. Tussocks can develop into large rafts, allowing emergent plant species such as primrose willow to grow on them. The plant roots tie the rafts together below the surface, and stems and branches tie them together above the surface. Plants such as pennywort and smartweed can grow outward from the shoreline of a waterbody, forming mats that can be torn loose by wind and waves. In other waterbodies, plants such as cattails and pickerelweed that colonize shallow areas during low water can pull loose from soft sediments, forming large, floating mats.

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Having a backbone.

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A region draining into a river, river system, or other body of water.

Wild and Scenic River

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, protects the free-flowing waters of many of the nation's most spectacular rivers. The act safeguards the special character of these rivers and protects the public's enjoyment of them for present and future generations. The managing agencies also try to accommodate and reflect community and landowner interests. The act strives to balance river development with permanent protection. To accomplish this, it prohibits dams and other federally assisted water resource projects that would adversely affect river values; protects outstanding natural, cultural, or recreational values; ensures that water quality is maintained; and requires the creation of a comprehensive river management plan that addresses resource protection, development of lands and facilities, user capacities, and other management practices necessary to achieve the purposes of the act. The designation does not prohibit development or give the federal government control over private property.

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Very dry environmental conditions.

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