These images document significant environmental damage that the Rainbow Springs Aquatic Preserve sustained in December of 2006. It is the result of non-approved and non-permitted clearing that occurred within the ORDINARY HIGH WATER LINE and on slopes that led directly down to the water: in this case, in the lower East Blue Cove area of the Preserve at the site of a development called the Rainbow River Ranch.
This damage was done quickly, secretively and without oversight in order to ensure desireable views at the water's edge for a future development complex that would otherwise not have been permitted without maintaining a significant riparian buffer.
Tree clearing, the clear-cutting of large cypress and red maples (both are wetland trees), canopy disturbance, stump-grinding, vegetative clearing -- all of these things lead to the destruction of the riparian buffer that you will see in the images to follow. What is a riparian buffer?
A riparian buffer is a vegetative area of land bordering a body of water such as a stream or river ['riparian" in Latin means river bank.] Riparian areas are the green ribbons of trees, shrubs, and grasses growing along water-courses that stabilize the bank and acts as a filter and sponge to remove, transform or store pollutants. This buffer protects against excessive sediment runoff into the water through sediment filtering and bank stabilization, at the same time that it supplies vital food, shelter and shade for aquatic animals and other wildlife. The diversity and abundance of wildlife in riparian zones is, consequently, much higher than in adjacent communities in an ecosystem.
The proper way to manage a riparian forest along sensitive water bodies like an Aquatic Preserve is to leave it alone, allowing these areas to remain wild; including any dead trees and branches. As this wood debris loses its bark and begins to decay it continues to provide food and shelter for resident and migratory wildlife for many years to come.
NOTE: There are environmental rules in place to protect against situations like this, but communities must be watchful and PROACTIVE and know what to look for. The contractor and Rainbow River Conservation, Inc. have been embroiled in litigation ever since with no apparent end in sight...unless or until...the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection can find a way to purchase this sensitive parcel of land outright.
Florida's springs and preserves such as this one are rapidly deteriorating from over-development, excess water-related tourism, septic runoff from surrounding areas and infrigement by expansive residential developments that bring in tax dollars but also ecological decay when they build too close to the water's edge.
This above natural buffer was in place in 2006 immediately upriver from East Blue Cove: this extensive riparian buffer was dense, lush, diverse and populated with old growth trees right up to the waterline.
The images that follow show the effects of riparian destruction that occurred immediately adjacent to that natural buffer. Note the close proximity of the riparian devastation to the water.
This can happen in your community, too, when no one is looking or when a local governing body is hungry for tax dollars at any cost.
See this link for a more expansive discussion of
the ecology and importance of riparian zones
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