WEST PALM BEACH – Lake Okeechobee is finally back in the ecological envelope, Lawrence Glenn Water Resources Division Director told the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board at the April 9 meeting.
With the lake at 14.19 feet, the wading birds are having a good year on the big lake, he said.
Researchers have counted 50 Everglades Snail Kite nests on the lake, two at the Lakeside Ranch Stormwater Treatment Area (STA), 37 in the C-44 STA and 28 on Lake Hicpochee. These account for 76% of all known snail kites nests in the state, he explained.
Glenn said about 3,700 birds are foraging in five areas around the lake.
He said there is a spattering of algae bloom potential on the western side of the marsh, but winds have prevented algal blooms from forming in the center of the lake.
Glenn said they use chlorophyll levels to identify areas with algal blooms. These levels do not indicate what type of algae or cyanobacteria (also called blue green algae) are present. Both algae and cyanobacteria are part of the lake’s natural ecosystem. According to the U.S. Geological Service, about 25% of the species of cyanobacteria are capable of producing toxins, however cyanobacteria that can produce toxins do not always do so.
Glenn said areas with 20-40 micrograms per liter chlorophyll are considered to have “blooms.” He said areas with blooms are tested to find out what kind of algae and/or cyanobacteria are present and whether or not toxins are present. Two areas with Microcystis were found in the past month, but the toxin levels were below the detectable level. (The World Health Organization considers microcystin levels above 1 microgram per liter to be unsafe to drink and levels above 8 micrograms per liter to be unsafe for human recreation contact, such as swimming.)