News | January 13, 2017

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Free lecture offers ecology lessons for SW Florida

“Moonlight on the Marsh” Lecture Series begins Jan. 19 in Naples

Efforts to control water systems, like those imposed on Lake Okeechobee and the Florida Everglades, will be the timely topic as Florida Gulf Coast University launches the 2017 Bernard and Susan Master “Moonlight on the Marsh” Lecture Series on Thursday, Jan. 19 in Naples.

Dr. Leon P.M. Lamers, professor of Aquatic Ecology & Environmental Biology at the Institute for Water and Wetland Research at Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, will lead off the series with “The Dutch solution to floods: Live with water, don’t fight it” at 7 p.m. at FGCU’s Everglades Wetland Research Park. The facility is housed in the Harvey Kapnick Education and Research Center at the Naples Botanical Garden, 4940 Bayshore Drive.

After centuries of trying to control nature and especially floods and storms, the Dutch have realized that it is too costly and sometimes futile to try to control natural forces and better to redesign landscapes and protection systems capable of bending but not breaking, according to Dr. William J. Mitsch, FGCU eminent scholar and director of the research park. The Dutch influenced the western world to “drain, drain, drain the landscape” — separating open water from dry land, he said. Now, they see the wisdom of having wetlands as a middle ground — sort of a “no-fly zone” between nature and humans.

“This has enormous implications for south Florida, where we are the world’s poster child to some for the ultimate changes that will occur to our coastlines — and the humans who live here — with sea-level rise. We need to have policies and infrastructure that will bend but not break,” Mitsch said. “A good example might be turning Tamiami Trail between Miami and Naples into a bridge, rather than keeping the road as a barrier for water flow — another important point for protecting the Everglades no matter the cost. It would be our ‘no-fly zone’ if we have a hydrologic conflict with nature.”

Saving freshwater rather than flushing it out to sea, as the Army Corps of Engineers is doing with Lake Okeechobee releases to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, could be another approach, Mitsch said. “We must send the water south, but it must be cleaned up with treatment wetlands, not more green reservoirs, before it goes south to the Everglades.”

Lamers is one of five preeminent national and international experts who will speak in the lecture series, which is sponsored by Bernard C. and Susan Master of Marco Island and Columbus, Ohio.

The theme of this year’s series is water — water quality, water availability, wetlands preservation and protection of coastal and river areas from overabundance of water. Two of the five speakers are winners of the Stockholm Water Prize, considered by many to be the Nobel Prize for water.

“Moonlight on the Marsh” lectures are free, but guests are encouraged to register by leaving a message for Mitsch at (239) 325-1365 or by email.

The Everglades Wetland Research Park is dedicated to research on the wise management of freshwater and coastal ecosystems of Southwest Florida and the Florida Everglades and to the protection and enhancement of wetlands and water resources worldwide. More details on research and the lecture series are available on the park’s website.