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Focus on Ecosystem Health

Disturbing the delicate balance has a ripple effect

Healthy ecosystems are productive, resilient to stress and well organized to maintain their function. Researchers call this “ecosystem integrity.”

In a system with integrity, the right amount of relatively nutrient-free fresh water flows down Southwest Florida's Caloosahatchee River from the watershed, resulting in clear water and healthy seagrass beds, which provide food and habitat for juvenile fish that grow up to be part of the area’s recreational and commercial fisheries.

Without integrity, too much fresh water and too many nutrients kill seagrasses in the lower part of the river and cause massive toxic algae blooms, killing fish and creating health hazards for humans.

So, although much of The Water School’s research focuses on natural resources, attention also is directed toward various causes that upset ecosystem balance – climate change, freshwater management and habitat loss.

There’s passion about water in this area. People move here for the fishing, beaches, birding, boating, all those kinds of things. There’s also passion when we get it wrong. Citizens are complaining about dead fish on the beaches, cyanobacteria blooms in the Caloosahatchee River, flooding. We’re passionate, too.”

— Greg Tolley, Ph.D.,

Professor of Marine Science, Chair of the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences