Nutrient removal in the Everglades

This discussion topic submitted by Jyl Lapuchin ( on 7/7/98.


Guardo M. et al. 1995. Large-scale Constructed Wetlands for Nutrient Removal from Stormwater Runoff: An everglades Restoration Project. Environmental Management 19(6):879-889. South Florida Management District ENR Update.

everglades Nutrient Removal Project. November 1996. What is the everglades Nutrient Removal (ENR) project?

The Role of Research in the ENR project diagram of the ENR project's constructed wetlands

Science Watch: Silent Company for birds (Feb 24, 1998, NY
times) (i thought that this was a interestingand funny article about using plastic flamingo lawn ornaments in everglades to make the ponds more attractive for bird breeding).

Topic summary: The everglades supports a variety of rare, threatened, and endangered species whose survival depends on the natural cycle of water and nutrients under which the system was originally formed. These natural cycles include very low nutrient levels, with particularly low levels of phosphorous. Historically, rainfall provided the primary source of nutrients in the everglades. In recent decades, however, increasing volumes of phosphorous enrich water have been pumped into the everglades and are upsetting the system's natural balance. This water is coming largely from the 718,000 acre everglades agricultrual area, north and west of the everglades. These areas primarily grow sugarcane, rice, and vegetable crops.

This phosporous-enrichment is causing devastation such as decreased water quality, algae growth, decreased oxygen levels, increased sedimentation, and food chain disruptions. For example, sawgrass is seriously threatened by these causes and is being taken over by cattail, since cattail can adjust and thrive in these conditions.

Over the past 20 years, research has shown the ability of wetlands to remove nutrients from surface waters. In 1988, the governor of Florida decided to use 4000 acres of state owned land for a demonstration project for the artificial wetlands, the design of the wetlands was completed in 1989, construction began in 1991, and was completed in 1993. The project began treeating water in August, 1994. The ENR project works by re-routing runoff from the agricultural area through an inflow canal for treatment in the project's wetlands. Water is diverted into 2 upper cells for initial nutrient removal and then routed to two smaller cells for secondary treatment. Phosphorous is naturally removed by accumalating in soils, algae, and plants, such as peat moss. The treated water is then discharged to the Loxahatchee Refuge. The two phases of this project included the construction of the structural elements (7.5 miles perimeter levee to keep the water within the wetlands) and the establishment of marsh flora (the fallow sugar cane fields were flooded and native Florida plants appeared which consisted mostly of cattail, arrowhead, and pickeral weed). An important aspect of this project is its research value for other constructed wetlands.

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