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Elements for life
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Extensive human penetration, urbanization and intensive agriculture have been changing the ecology of the entire Florida peninsula. Not only animal species, also the fresh water resource is threatened
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Look at the environmental problems in the nature of the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee

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N, P, S, Ca, Hg interplay

Click for Phosphorus removal

Lake Okeechobee Pollution Levels Spike Out of Control Sep.23, 2009
Current phosphorus pollutant levels are approx. 4 times the legal maximum level according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "There is a 300 square mile ‘muck zone' on the bottom of Lake Okeechobee containing 30,000 tons of phosphorus for which there is no clean-up plan"..

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Mercury in fish: Insidious, still largely mysterious, especially in Florida
Miami Herald : Oct. 26, 2009
Mercury has the nickname "quicksilver," yet it poisons environments, wildlife and people around the world in a slow, relentless manner. Florida, with extensive wetlands and waterways, is one of its most vulnerable targets. Bacteria, particularly in wetlands, convert mercury into a form, called methylmercury, readily absorbed and stored by living things.

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Everglades to get water relief from $81 mln bridge

Reutersl: Sep. 29, 2009:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded an $81 million contract to build a road bridge that will help restore fresh water flows in Everglades National Park, nourishing its ecosystem. Beginning in November 2009, Kiewit Southern Company of Sunrise, FL. will remove 1 mile of the Tamiami Trail road that crosses the park and blocks natural water flows to the northeastern Everglades - and replace it with the bridge. "Tamiami Trail currently acts as a dam that starves the Park of its lifeblood -- water," said Dan Kimball, superintendent of Everglades NP.
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Which is it ?
Pollute or clean Everglades ?

Times Editorial, Aug.20, 2009
While billions are spent to restore the Florida Everglades, pollutants are still allowed to be pumped into Lake Okeechobee that feeds Florida Water supply. The canals collect runoff containing “a loathsome concoction of chemical contaminants” that includes nitrogen, phosphorus, un-ionized ammonia and various solids ....
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arrow Read up on water contamination

Lake Okeechobee algae bloom
North Lake Okeechobee
receives most of the run-off phosphate from the watershed - algal blooms have become a frequent occurence. Blue-green algae are capable of fixing Carbon AND Nitrogen. All they need is a bit more phosphate to thrive.

Current Flow
Phosphorus-Nitrogen contamination from LO now flows through Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers bespoiling the estuaries

algae in SW estuaries
This satellite photo shows the algal growth surrounding the whole of SW Florida


Just a brief summary of the role of the key elements in life and the environment (with apologies to science people !)


Elements Essential for Life :


HYDROGEN These are the 3 essential non-minerals (H, O, C), normally widely available:
The primary element - we have to realize that, together with Oxygen, it forms water as a basis of life as we know it. Not free in the atmosphere, it occurs in all organic compounds forming many special bonds.
For all practical purposes, we can take it "for granted" for life and in nature .
It was generated on early Earth mainly through photosythesis and eventually became ubiquitous. About two thirds of the human body and nine tenths of water is oxygen. Oxygen, which is very reactive, is a component of hundreds of thousands of organic compounds and combines with most elements. It supports and is essential for aerobic cells and their way of life. Aerobic respiration produces most of the energy in aerobic cells.

The backbone of organic molecules, it is very widely distributed in nature. As carbon dioxide, it is easily available for photosynthetic "fixing" into organic molecules. It is a component of great rock masses in the form of carbonates of calcium (limestone), magnesium, and iron. Coal, petroleum, and natural gas are chiefly hydrocarbons. It is unique in forming a vast number and variety of compounds. There are close to ten million known carbon compounds, many thousands of which are vital to organic and life processes.
Without carbon, the very basis for life would be impossible.

The following 3 elements are considered and occur as "mineral nutrients" that may often become limiting for cellular or plant growth :

Inert diatomic (N2) gas plentyful in the atmosphere (78%), very stable and unreactive. In the nature, only a few types of bacteria can “fix” this nitrogen and incorporate it in the cellular components.  Industry chemically manufactures ammonia, subsequently used as fertilizer and to produce nitric acid. Nitrogen is an essential element for life, because it is a constituent of DNA for genetic coding and of amino acids making up proteins, some of which are catalytically active enzymes.  In water and soils nitrogen can be found in nitrates and nitrites. All of these substances are a part of the nitrogen cycle interconnecting them. Humans have changed natural nitrate and nitrite proportions radically, mainly due to the application of nitrate-containing manures. Nitrate concentrations in drinking water cause severe health problems. 

Amino Acids
Multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group is an essential element for the life of organisms. In the nature, phosphorus is never encountered in its pure form, but only as phosphates (PO4). Those can exists as the negatively charged phosphate ion (PO43-) - in water, minerals, or as organophosphates in which there are organic molecules attached to 1, 2 or 3 oxygen atoms. Superphosphate fertilizer contains 20% soluble Phosphorous Pentoxide (P2O5). Due to the constant addition of phosphates by humans, the natural P concentrations in water bodies are exceeded and the natural phosphorus cycle is strongly disrupted. Higher phosphorus concentrations in surface waters promote the growth of algae and duckweed that use great amounts of oxygen and prevent sunlight from entering the water. This makes such water bodies unliveable for other organisms. This phenomenon is commonly known as eutrophication. In many water bodies, phosphorus is the limiting nutrient and controlling its level is crucially important for preventing their degradation and eutrophication (Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades !). Currently, there are no large-scale cost-effective technologies for removing P to acceptably low levels (~20 ppb).

Number of P Atoms


Usual Name













Essential to life, it is widely distributed in nature as iron pyrites, galena, sphalerite, cinnabar, stibnite, gypsum, epsom salts, celestite, barite, etc.  Sulfur also occurs in natural gas and petroleum crudes and must be removed from these products. Organic compounds containing sulfur are very important, e.g. 2 essential amino acids (cysteine and methionine, components of proteins, enzymes) contain sulfur. Inorganic calcium sulfur, ammonium sulfate, carbon disulfide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide are but a few of the many important compounds of sulfur.
Increased sulfate levels in water as well as sulfate reduction activity will lead to mercury methylation and its bioaccumulation in fish.
Elemental Sulphur - and incrporated in
essential amino acid cysteine:

Sulfur cysteine
The following "mineral nutrient" elements are esential for the cell to thrive - they are usually generally freely available in the environment:

Sodium is quite abundant and like every reactive element, is never found free in nature. The most common compound is sodium chloride (NaCl), but it occurs in many other minerals, such as soda niter, cryolite, amphibole, zeolite, etc. Seawater has a high content of (sodium) salt and ancient salt deposits are mined for it. Sodium is the major positive ion (cation) in fluid outside of cells. Sodium ion regulates many types of cellular transport mechanism and is thus essential for supporting life. While sodium chloride enhances mercury mobilization from soils, elevated chloride levels (>700 mg/L) substantially enhance the release of (toxic) mercury from freshwater sediments.

Not only is PHOSPHORUS the most important and limiting element in the Everglades, it is crucial to the agriculture where it substantially improves crop yields.
Unfortunately, it washes off the fields and most of it ends up where it creates ecological havoc in the environment.
One way of minimizing this draw-back effect is to improve on the availability of P to the plants.

CLICK below (or on the text above) and watch a short VIDEO showing how AVAIL Fertilizer Advancer does it :


Naturally present in water as it dissolves from many minerals. It is a determinant of water hardness, because it can be found in water as Ca2+ ions and it also functions as a pH stabilizer because of its buffering qualities. It also gives water a “better taste”.
Magnesium is the other hardness determinant. Calcium often positively affects soil quality and various compounds are applied as a fertilizer. For example, CaCl2- or Ca(NO)3 solutions are applied in horticulture. In a watery solution calcium is mainly present as Ca2+ (aq), but it may also occur as CaOH+ (aq) or Ca(OH)2 (aq), or as CaSO4 in seawater.
Retention of P by precipitation will be more significant in waters with high Ca2+ and alkalinity.


It is present in seawater in amounts of about 1300 ppm. After sodium, it is the most commonly found cation in oceans. Rivers contains approximately 4 ppm of magnesium, marine algae 6000-20,000 ppm, and oysters 1200 ppm.  Magnesium is mainly present as Mg2+ (aq) in watery solutions, but also as MgOH+ (aq) and Mg(OH)2 (aq). In seawater it can also be found as MgSO4. Magnesium hydroxide is applied as a flocculant in water purification.
Magnesium and other alkali earth metals are responsible for water hardness. Water containing large amounts of alkali earth ions is called hard water.
Magnesium is a dietary mineral for any organism but insects. It is a central atom of the chlorophyll molecule, and is therefore a requirement for plant photosynthesis.

Together with nitrogen and phosphorous, potassium is one of the essential macrominerals for plant survival. Its presence is of great importance for soil health, plant growth and animal nutrition. Its primary function in the plant is its role in the maintenance of osmotic pressure and cell size, thereby influencing photosynthesis and energy production as well as stomatal opening and carbon dioxide supply, plant turgor and translocation of nutrients. As such, the element is required in relatively large proportions by the growing plant.
Trace elements - usually so called "heavy metals" - most of them with different levels of toxicity
Fe, Cu, Zn, Co, ...
While toxic at higher concentrations, these heavy metals are often required to support metabolic activities and growth. The toxicology and regulation of these metals is disputed.

Hg, Cd, Cr
The "Big Three" - also:
Arsenic (As)
Lead (Pb)

Highly toxic !
As all heavy metals, they accumulate throughout the food chain, affecting more strongly higher organisms, including man at the top of the food "pyramid"
Mercury and Arsenic tend to appear in the nature quite spontaneously, originating from some anthropogenic (human) sources as well as from geologic formations and released by local chemical conditions.
Particularly mercury circulates in the environment and is difficult to eliminate.

The only common metal liquid at ordinary temperatures, rarely occurs free in nature. Hg binds (amalgams) with gold and is used in gold recovery - wreaking environmental havoc (Brazil, Africa). Mercury is a virulent poison and is readily absorbed through the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, or through unbroken skin. It acts as a cumulative poison and dangerous levels are readily attained in air. Organic mercury compounds are important. Methyl mercury is a dangerous pollutant and is now widely found in water and streams. Mercury concentrations get multiplied throughout the food chain with dangerous accumulations in higher animal species,particularly in fish. Sulfur (see above) is important in the synthesis of methylmercury and its subsequent accumulation in living organisms.
Carbon cycle  
Nitrogen cycle


Florida from above FL-EAA-WCA-Everglades
Satellite view: Lake Okeechobee in the center, adjacent south of it is the EAA (darker) and furtehr south are WCAs with the Everglades at the tip of the peninsula

Everglades Report

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Everglades Report with the latest news and information on the work to restore central and south Florida's natural environment.

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The projects are mainly executed by:

US Army Corps of Engineers

South Florida Water
Management District


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