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Could Water Hyacinth Solve the Algae Problem in Kings Bay
Water hyacinth is a free-floating plant with an explosive growth rate. After being introduced to Americans at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition held in New Orleans in 1884, water hyacinth seduced gardeners with its beauty and hardiness. From the ponds and lakes where it was intentionally planted, it quickly spread—due in part to floods. But a bigger boost came from post–World War II development. As humans dammed rivers, drained wetlands, and filled water bodies with sewage and fertilizer, they created ideal water hyacinth habitat. At its worst, it can form impenetrable mats, boost mosquito numbers, and deplete the water of dissolved oxygen—effectively suffocating fish.

Many ecologists have spent their careers trying to eradicate water hyacinth, but conservationists and volunteers put almost 4,300 gallons of water hyacinth into the waters of Kings Bay in Florida’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Bob Knight, the wetlands restoration ecologist, believes this South American native, if controlled, could help solve the algae problem and return the bay’s ecosystem to a more desirable state.

 
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