University of Florida

Massive study shows climate change rapidly warming world’s lakes, UF/IFAS professor says

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Pollution, Research

Small Lake Alice resized

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a new study spanning six continents.

More than 60 scientists took part in the research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and announced today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The study authors include Karl Havens, director of the Florida Sea Grant program and a professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The full study, titled, “Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe,” is available free of charge here, or at the following link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015GL066235/full.

The study showed that lakes are warming an average of 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit each decade. That’s greater than the warming rate of either the oceans or the atmosphere, and it could have profound effects, scientists say.

At the current rate, algal blooms, which can ultimately rob water of oxygen, are projected to increase 20 percent in lakes over the next century. Algal blooms that are toxic to fish and other animals would increase by 5 percent. And these rates imply that emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide, will increase 4 percent over the next decade.

“Lakes are critically important to people, because they are sources of drinking water, irrigation water and fisheries,” said Havens, an ecologist with the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. (more …)

UF/IFAS hosting Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference in January

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, RECs, Safety

A man checks fertilizer levels on a tractor on a farm. Farm equipment, fertilization, agriculture, food crops. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

APOPKA, Fla. — Florida agriculture and food industries are among the largest economic contributors in the state. Agricultural producers manage 9.5 million acres, growing more than 300 commodities, including everything from citrus and cows to peanuts and potatoes. Agricultural products are shipped to national and international markets.

On January 28, some of the state’s top agriculture thinkers will gather at the University of Florida’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka for the Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference scheduled for 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  Cost is $50 and includes a catered lunch. The event is organized by the UF Food and Resource Economics Department, under the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Snail kites’ affinity for home leaves them in more peril

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The endangered snail kite’s affinity for its birthplace can come back to haunt the bird, leaving it in more peril, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study.

Snail kites are important for at least two reasons: Bird enthusiasts flock to see them in their natural habitat, so they’re a bit of a tourist magnet. Secondly, wildlife managers use the snail kite as a barometer for conservation actions to preserve the Everglades, said Robert Fletcher, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation.

The population of snail kites declined from about 3,500 to about 700 from 1999 through 2008. The bird has bounced back a bit, to about 1,700 birds in 2014, mostly in the lake habitats to the north of the Everglades.

Because of the snail kite’s dwindling population, Fletcher led a 17-year study into dispersal patterns of the federally endangered bird. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, spans the years 1997 to 2013.

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Irrigation method saves 50 percent of water needed for potato growth

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, IFAS, Research, Weather




Citra, Pivot irrigation watering fields. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have found an irrigation method that uses 50 percent less water than traditional systems to grow potatoes – an important finding for the $131 million-a-year Florida crop.

The system is called “hybrid center pivot irrigation.” With this method, about two-thirds of the water used to help grow potatoes is sprayed from above ground, similar to natural rainfall, and about one-third comes from under the ground – a traditional method known as “seepage irrigation.”

UF/IFAS Assistant Professor Guodong “David” Liu led a group of UF/IFAS researchers in testing the impact of hybrid center pivot irrigation on soil moisture and temperature at a Manatee County, Florida potato farm.

The method saved about 55 percent of water in a three-year trial at the farm. Additionally, researchers found no loss in crop yield using less water. Liu said he now is convincing growers to use center pivot irrigation with fertigation, in which all the water comes from above-ground sprinklers. Scientists say they may save one third more water.

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Hulcr selected to win UF/IFAS’ Richard L. Jones research award

Topic(s): Announcements, Biocontrols, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Pests, Research

Jiri Hulcr mug

Jiri Hulcr

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS forest entomologist who – among other activities – is working to help stop pests that sicken trees, has been selected to receive the Richard L. Jones Award for promising research at UF/IFAS.

The 2016 award goes to Jiri Hulcr. It is presented by the UF/IFAS dean for research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station to an outstanding early career scientist. Like previous winners, Hulcr will receive the award at the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Annual Awards Reception in May 2016.

The recipient gets a one-time $2,500 annual salary supplement and a $2,500 grant to support his or her research.

Hulcr, an assistant professor with a dual appointment in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Department of Entomology and Nematology, joined UF/IFAS in 2012.

(more …)

Saving green: UF/IFAS computer program saves nurseries water, plants and money

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Research


Poinsettia. Rapid urban growth in Florida and the Southeast creates a huge demand for a wide range of container-grown ornamental plants and trees for residential and commericial landscapes.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A web-based irrigation system developed by researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences saved 21 percent in water use without reducing growth of container-grown landscape plants, a new study shows.

While UF/IFAS scientists say a Virginia nursery is the only one utilizing the system so far, they hope similar businesses take advantage of the software, so they can reap its benefits in saved water and money. For now, scientists are interested in the irrigation needs of container-grown plants such as anise, gardenias, azaleas, junipers, roses and more.

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UF/IFAS-developed app saves significant water and money

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, RECs, Research, Weather

In this photo released from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, extension agent Janet Bargar checks the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system at a home in Vero Beach – Friday, May 25, 2007. Bargar, a water quality expert, suggests residents check with their county extension office about local watering restrictions. She says the ideal time to water is before sunrise and that residents should check irrigation systems regularly to be sure they’re working properly and not watering the sidewalk.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An app developed by scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences may save homeowners about 30 percent on water usage, which translates into lower utility bills, new research shows.

Kati Migliaccio, the lead designer of the irrigation app, led a study at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. Through their research, scientists found the app saved 42 percent to 57 percent of the water used with time-scheduled irrigation.

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UF study shows restored oyster reefs beneficial beyond the dinner plate – shellfish help create and protect habitats critical to wildlife and human communities

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, New Technology, Pollution
Researchers working on an oyster bar survey off of the coast of Cedar Key, Florida.  Airboat, storm clouds, coast.

Researchers working on an oyster bar survey off of the coast of Cedar Key, Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Oysters thrive under brackish conditions, and now a University of Florida study reveals that the bivalves can actually help create the mix of fresh water and brine they crave.

While evaluating a new method of restoring degraded oyster reefs, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and UF’s College of Engineering confirmed an observation that Cedar Key-area oystermen have made for years – some oyster reefs act as natural dams, impounding fresh water that flows seaward from nearby creeks and rivers.

The result: large areas of reduced-salinity water that help maintain near-shore estuarine habitats supporting oysters, sea grasses, juvenile game fish and invertebrates important to the marine food chain as well as seafood production and recreational opportunities for people.

This finding, published in a report available at http://www.projects.tnc.org/coastal, could aid ecological and fishery restoration projects along Florida’s Big Bend Coast, a largely undeveloped area bordering the Gulf of Mexico between Wakulla and Pasco counties, said project leader Peter Frederick, a professor with UF/IFAS’ Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.

The Big Bend Coast is one of the nation’s few coastal areas featuring numerous oyster reefs that run parallel to shore and stand above the water’s surface at low tide. The study site, off the Levy County coast, is a chain of oyster reefs punctuated by a few openings that allow seawater to mix with fresh water that the reef holds back as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico from the Suwannee River.

“We’ve known about other ecosystem services that oyster reefs provide, like acting as breakwaters that reduce the impact of wave action on the shore,” Frederick said. “But the role of oyster reefs in modulating the salinity of water near the shore had not been demonstrated before.” (more …)

UF/IFAS helping teachers with creative biology lessons

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Need a creative way to teach students about Florida’s ecosystems?  How about tracking the journey of an invasive plant or putting together a puzzle of freshwater plants?  The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has you covered.

Fun lessons are available through The Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative, a partnership between the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (more …)

Strategies to keep pollutants out of your neighborhood storm water pond

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Pollution

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many people live in subdivisions with storm water ponds, which collect water from the neighborhood and help keep pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and pet waste from getting into the broader environment. Now, UF/IFAS researchers and Extension faculty have devised strategies to help homeowners limit their pollution contribution.

Before they crafted the strategies, outlined in a new Extension document, “Strategies to Encourage Adoption of Storm Water Pond Best Management Practices (BMPs) by Homeowners,” http://bit.ly/1M6SBrU,

UF/IFAS research and Extension faculty surveyed a large planned community in Manatee County, Florida. Among other things, they found that nearly half the homeowners either didn’t know what storm water runoff was or did not know where storm water runoff goes.

Paul Monaghan, an associate professor of agricultural education and communication and a co-author of the document, said the survey result is fairly typical of homeowners across Florida and elsewhere.

“They see the curb and gutter, and they think the water is going to be treated at a plant,” Monaghan said. “They don’t really know their water runs off into the storm water pond. It’s all accumulating. It matters what you do and what your neighbors do. If we can get homeowners to understand that and know it has an effect, we will be taking a step in the right direction.”

(more …)

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