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Natural Communities of Rainbow Springs Aquatic Preserve Quick Topics

The majority of the aquatic preserve is made up of two natural communities: spring-run stream and blackwater stream. The aquatic preserve is also closely associated with communities of hydric hammock, mesic flatwoods, and floodplain swamps.

General descriptions of these natural communities are available at Florida Natural Areas Inventory. The following describes the specific condition of the natural communities at Rainbow Springs Aquatic Preserve.

Spring ventSpring-run Stream - The majority of the aquatic preserve is categorized as a spring-run stream. Rainbow Springs' overwhelming majority of recharge comes from groundwater sources through the artesian openings in the underground aquifer. Water from the springheads generally runs clear, with a temperature that averages around 72 degrees F.

Rainbow Springs struggles with the intensity of recreational use it receives, especially in shallow depth areas which can be easily disturbed by boaters and swimmers. Motorized boats, excluding self-propelled canoes and kayaks, are prohibited in the first 1700 feet of the headsprings area for this reason. Although the removal of motorized vessels has benefited aquatic plant beds and improved water quality, designated swimming areas continue to have a dramatic impact on plant cover. Exotic species, such as hydrilla may also benefit from increased recreational use, as they can outpace native vegetation growth or regrowthh, and spread downstream due to human disturbance. Recently, hydrilla has been evaluated as decreasing in area, but benthic algal mats have been increasing. Benthic algal mats accumulate around aquatic vegetation, suffocating it and/or uprooting it by increasing the drag against the current.

Blackwater Stream - There is a small segment of blackwater stream in the lower portion of the Rainbow River This segment stretches for the final quarter mile of the aquatic preserve, and forms the transition zone between the Rainbow and Withlacoochee rivers. This natural community is in decline, with water quality and clarity issues, and vegetation loss.

Aquatic Caves - Although the spring vents within the aquatic preserve are too small for human access and exploration, there are large cave systems underground. Since this community remains undisturbed, those caves are assumed to be in excellent condition.

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Last updated: September 06, 2016

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