|Hornsby Spring Run|
|Wood stork plodding through Hornsby Swamp|
Like the pine, the vascular system under Hornsby is still intact, still full of fluid. But it’s not the purely artesian spring water that once flowed from the vent, not the clear, calcium-rich water to which every habitat, every species and every individual creature that lives along the spring run and Santa Fe River, from here to the Gulf of Mexico, is adapted. The chemistry of tannic brown river water is different from artesian water. The temperature, too, is different. It’s also less clear, which means less light penetrates to the bottom and fewer plant species can thrive. Fewer plants means fewer animals. Many species have survived the transition. Some have not.
Just as I learned that green pines with lightning streaks running into the ground are actually dead, I'm learning from watching Hornsby, Graham, Columbia and several other once-blue springs of the upper Santa Fe that, even though the plumbing is still working, browning springs are in their death-throes. But, there are a couple of big differences between dying pines and dying springs.
For one thing, humans are not responsible for lightning struck trees. Insurance companies label them, “acts of God.” The death of our springs, on the other hand, is being caused by humans. It’s a reversible tragedy. But saving the springs would take special kind of miracle—a committed effort by Florida voters (that's us) and decision-makers we elect.