Water-Related News

Research sheds light on Lake Okeechobee issues

A visiting scientist from China helped Florida Gulf Coast University with a newly-published study surrounding Lake Okeechobee, and the research was no easy feat.

Lake O’s seemingly endless stretch of water is breathtaking. Now, research two years in the making gives us a better idea of what’s going on beneath the surface. That’s where FGCU’s Everglades Wetland Research Park comes in.

“We get three, four, five visiting scientists a year coming to our lab,” said Bill Mitsch, director of the FGCU Everglades Wetland Research Park.

Professor Pei Ma from China teamed up with Mitsch to study Lake O beginning in 2018.

“She did a marvelous thing. She took samples twice, once in the wet season, once in the dry season, went all the way around the lake,” Mitsch said.

In turn, researchers studied the isotopes found in those samples, which act as sort of a name tag.

“The isotope tells you where it came from and this study actually identified the principal source for the nitrate that’s in the lake,” Mitsch said. “We can’t follow it all the way to the Gulf of Mexico yet, but in the lake, it was primarily agriculture that was causing nitrate pollution in the lake.”

The research shows fertilizers and soil nitrogen were the main contributors.