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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A camera can accurately count freshwater fish, even in the thickest of underwater vegetation, a key finding for those who manage fisheries and control the invasive plant hydrilla, new University of Florida research shows.
The finding by UF/IFAS scientists can help researchers understand how many and which fish species are using dense plant habitats, said former UF/IFAS graduate student Kyle Wilson.
While cameras have been used to document fish behavior – including eating and breeding ─ this marks the first time scientists have used video to count fish in underwater plant habitats, Wilson said. In addition, no prior studies that used cameras to count fish verified their fish populations.
“It is commonly assumed that dense and invasive plants, like hydrilla, can drastically change fish habitat quality, primarily through changes in dissolved oxygen levels, water chemistry and habitat structure,” Wilson said. “Whether these changes are good or bad for fish has previously remained uncertain due to sampling problems in dense plant habitats. Using underwater cameras, we have shown that fish can and do use habitats we previously thought were too stressful for fish habitat.”
This is a big problem, especially with hydrilla, a plant that has invaded lakes throughout Florida, much of the U.S., Central America, South Africa and Australia, Wilson said. He estimated Florida spent up to $14 million per year throughout the 2000s to manage hydrilla, while the U.S. spent about $100 million per year in the 2000s for aquatic plant management.
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March 18, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. –The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is joining forces with two entities as part of a $3 million, three-year contract to provide scientific data to help protect and restore the state’s springs system. UF/IFAS’ partners in the effort are the St. Johns River Water Management District, which is funding the project, and UF’s Water Institute. (more …)
Feb. 25, 2014
GAINESVLLE, Fla. – For years, scientists tried to find out why some small streams carry only minute concentrations of nitrogen.
Now Stefan Gerber, a University of Florida researcher with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Jack Brookshire, an assistant professor of biogeochemistry from Montana State University, believe they have solved the mystery. (more …)
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Although some scientists suggest that coral reefs are headed for certain doom, a new study by University of Florida and Caribbean researchers indicates even damaged reefs can recover.
In a 13-year study in the Cayman Islands, warm ocean temperatures led to bleaching and infectious disease that reduced live coral cover by more than 40 percent between 1999 and 2004. But seven years later, the amount of live coral on the reefs, the density of young colonies critical to the reefs’ future health, and the overall size of corals all had returned to the 1999 state, the study showed.
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GAINESVILLE – A new book gives readers a plethora of information about an Indonesian tropical fish that’s popular globally but threatened by the aquarium industry, says a University of Florida professor who helped write it.
The book, “Banggai Cardinalfish: A Guide to Captive Care, Breeding & Natural History,” is described on the cover as a manual for aquarium enthusiasts, divers and breeders interested in the Banggai Cardinalfish. It’s available online at www.banggai-rescue.com.
“It’s kind of an educational update,” said Roy Yanong, an associate professor and extension veterinarian at UF’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “It’s a review of all we learned, scientifically and anecdotally.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many scientists see great promise in algae as a new source of oil — a sustainable, environmentally sound way to break the world’s fossil fuel dependence.
Algal lipids from microalgae are one of the best sources for biofuels – algae grow quickly, tolerate extreme weather conditions, and do not pose the same issues as biofuel crops that are grown both for fuel and food.
Many research teams in academia and private industry are struggling, however, with one vexing problem with algae as a fuel source: The conditions that promote algal growth aren’t the same as the conditions that allow the algae to create the maximum amount of oil.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s agriculture, natural resources and related food industries provided a $104 billion impact on the state in 2011 and have continued to improve since the 2008 recession, according to a new University of Florida study.
The study is the latest report from researchers in UF’s food and resource economics department — part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences — on the industries’ economic contributions. It can be viewed here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FE/FE93500.pdf.
The industries include crop, livestock, forestry and fisheries production; agricultural product and service providers; food product manufacturing; forest product manufacturing; food distribution; mining and nature-based recreation.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is no evidence that pollutants from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill contributed to the “unprecedented” decline in recent Apalachicola Bay oyster populations, according to a report this week by the University of Florida.
Instead, the report by UF’s Oyster Recovery Team cites drought, insufficient rainfall and increased salinity in the bay as factors contributing to the dramatic drop-off in oyster landings beginning in September 2012 and continuing through the year, said Karl Havens, task force leader and director of Florida Sea Grant.
“There was a whole chain of circumstances that led to this situation, some of which are beyond human control,” Havens said. “Our report makes recommendations for many things that can be done to help the oyster population through management and restoration.”
Havens and other recovery team members discussed the report and findings with a crowd of about 60 residents and seafood workers Wednesday at the Apalachicola Community Center.
The full report and a summary are available at the UF/IFAS Franklin County Extension office or its website, http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some teenagers want a car; Tiffy Murrow wants to feed the world.
The Fort White High School junior has spent almost two years learning to farm fish, with help from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and her school’s agriculture adviser, Wayne Oelfke.
Murrow started with glass aquaria and tropical fish, then she graduated to a 750-gallon tank housed in an equipment building on the school campus. It holds 140 tilapia destined for a soup kitchen in nearby Lake City when they reach optimum size, about one pound.
But this project is about more than fish.
Soon, Murrow and collaborator Kaila Cheney, a FWHS sophomore, will begin growing vegetables on floating platforms in another part of the system, a shallow pool where water circulates. The crops may include cucumber, tomato, lettuce and basil. With roots dangling in the water, the plants will draw moisture and nutrients from the pool, reducing the need for fertilizer and helping maintain the ammonia and nitrogen levels tilapia need to stay healthy.
The technology is called aquaponics, a sustainable method for raising food where farmland is scarce. Increasingly common in Third World countries, aquaponics is still a novel concept to many Americans. But in Fort White, Murrow has plans to spread the word by holding open house events and encouraging others to investigate aquaponics as a possible project, hobby or business opportunity.
“We want to see if we can make a difference,” Murrow said. “This is a model showing how you can grow a large amount of food in a small amount of space. We want to set up the same kind of thing with fish ponds and incorporate it into Third World countries.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Responding to the oyster fishery collapse in Apalachicola Bay, experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida Sea Grant will join forces with local seafood producers to find ways of restoring sustainable populations of the area’s world-famous oysters.
“We’re extremely concerned and want to help however we can,” said Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “An estimated 2,500 people work in Franklin County’s oyster industry and businesses closely allied with it. Many of them are now wondering how to put food on the table.”
In August, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a report with bleak projections for the 2012-13 oyster harvest.
When Florida’s oyster season opened Sept. 1, Apalachicola Bay oystermen found few harvestable oysters. Since then, Gov. Rick Scott has requested federal aid for the community and reports of oyster declines have come in from Dixie, Levy and Wakulla counties.
In recent years, Apalachicola Bay has produced about 10 percent of the U.S. oyster supply, and accounted for 90 percent of Florida’s harvest. The dockside value of Franklin County’s 2011 oyster harvest was $6.6 million.
On Friday, Payne announced formation of the UF Oyster Recovery Task Force and named Karl Havens to lead it. Havens is director of Florida Sea Grant.
The task force has multiple priorities, including: learning why oyster populations declined, finding ways to help them bounce back, and identifying solutions for social and economic impacts, Havens said.