In 2007, the SCCF Marine Laboratory launched the River Estuary Coastal Observing Network (RECON) to track changes in water quality from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico. RECON is a network of optical water quality sensors deployed throughout the Caloosahatchee river and estuary to provide real-time, water quality data to scientists, policy makers, and the general public.
The extensive watersheds of the Caloosahatchee (1,400 square miles) and Lake Okeechobee (4,400 square miles) each contribute water that flows into the Caloosahatchee estuary and the Gulf of Mexico. Water quality is affected by both Lake Okeechobee discharges and runoff from the Caloosahatchee watershed. Over time, these watersheds have changed from low-nutrient marshes and wetlands to high nutrient urban and agricultural land uses. Nutrients increase turbidity and decrease concentrations of dissolved oxygen (DO). In addition, excess nutrients fuel nuisance algal blooms. Losses of low-nutrient adapted communities, such as seagrasses have contributed to changes in fish, crustacean and marine mammal communities.
The data generated from RECON are helping with research that can illuminate specific processes and related resourcemanagement questions/concerns such as:
- Alteration of light that sustains seagrass habitats
- Rapid pulses of freshwater from run-off, low dissolved oxygen (DO) and hypoxic (low oxygen) zones make habitats unsuitable for many species, resulting in reduced biodiversity
- High chlorophyll concentrations indicative of enhanced nutrient levels
- Algae blooms resulting in low DO and hypoxic zones
Through the RECON website, other scientific organizations, educators, policy makers and concerned citizens can view real time or archived data and create graphical comparisons of one or more sensors.
Available data include:
- Physical measurements including temperature, depth, salinity and turbidity from all sensor locations; water flow and direction from the Gulf of Mexico station
- Chemical sensors including colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM), nitrate, and dissolved oxygen
- Biological measurements, particularly chlorophyll a (an indicator of productivity and algal blooms)
Visit the RECON website here