Piney Z Lake

Marti B.

Martí B.
21 May 2002

Natural and Cultural History of Piney Z/ Lake Lafayette

The Piney Z area was so named because of an area with pines growing in a Z-shape when viewed arially. The lake and its western and eastern bordering lakes, (both called the same thing, Lafayette) form the watershed for southeastern Tallahassee. A watershed is the area where the water from rains and runoff drains to. Piney Z as such would not exist naturally, it is maintained by man, and would drain on its own as a natural part of the karst topography of the Big Bend area. Karst land is a topographic structure consisting of a porous limestone ground, with sinkholes leading to underground lakes of water such as the Floridian aquifer. The following is a diagram showing the basic structure of the sinkhole area:

( A sinkhole is formed when there is not enough earth above an underground lake to support itself, and it caves in; hence the name.

Lake Piney Z itself is an artificial lake, kept in existence by damming up access to the sinkhole in western lake Lafayette, and making dikes on either side where Piney Z meets western and eastern lake Lafayette. Naturally a flood plain, the land was used by farmers as grazing land in the early 20th century until the lake was created and maintained. This area was not meant to remain a lake so long, and soon became very dirty, with a thick layer of organic muck. This muck would ordinarily be dealt with naturally as the lake rose and fell, but its artificially maintained water level has kept this from happening. The muck itself is made up of dead plants and phytoplankton, which were spurred into growth that far exceeded the natural rate by the addition of phosphate runoff from fertilizers used in crops and lawns. Eutrophication is a natural process as lakes age, but the addition of phosphates greatly increases the rate of algal bloom, as evidenced by the experiment where a lake was separated by a plastic divider curtain. One side was given nitrogen, the other side nitrogen and phosphorus. The following is the result after time for the algae to grow had passed:

( The top is with nitrogen only, bottom has phosphorus. With such a large amount of dead material in the water, obscurinthe sandy bottom and clouding the water, fish began to die.

Lake Piney Z was purchased by the government in the early 1990s with plans to convert it to a commercial fishery. The first thing that was done was that the lake was drained to expose the muck to the open air. Then portions of it were scraped to the sandy bottom. The muck was used to build finger dikes to extend the amount of fishable shoreline. The sandy bottom is used by fish in spawning. Although there was not enough money to fully scrape the lake, around half of it was done.

In the future, the government plans to stock the lake with fish to make it a well known fishery along the lines of lake Jackson.

Water Quality Parameters

Several water quality parameters are used to judge the health of lakes like Piney Z. Six will be described here. One is temperature. Basically, human interaction with lakes and streams should not change the temperature beyond its normal range for whatever season it is. High temperatures can also impede water’s ability to hold oxygen and other essential substances ( At piney Z, this was measured with a simple thermometer linked to a TI-83+. The thermometer was lowered into the water at the end of a meter stick, and when the temperature read stably it was recorded.

Which leads us to dissolved oxygen. Extremely important, all aerobic life forms need it to survive, as separating the oxygen from water is considerably more difficult. Low dissolved oxygen is bad for fish. Alternately, extremely high dissolved oxygen can cause something akin to the bends in humans. Oxygen bubbles block blood flow and cause death. Also harmful are external bubbles, known as emphysema, which is visible on the fish’s scales and fins (

The next water quality parameter is pH. The “p” in “pH” represents “-log.” Thus, pH is -log (H+), where H+ is the concentration of hydrogen ions. This measures the alkaline or acidic nature of a solution, in this case our lake water. Too acidic or too basic water kills fish and other life. In general, a pH of 6.0 to 9.0 is conducive to fish life ( This was measured at lake Piney Z through a probe, again attached to the end of a meter stick.

Turbidity is the measurement of the clearness of the water, or the amount of suspended particles or life forms in it. Water that is cloudy cannot bring light to the lower depths, and thus plants die and fish have more trouble breathing. We did not make a quantified measurement of this parameter at the lake; however, the water can be described as very tannic and obscured by floating dirt and algae, as well as surface floating aquatic plants like lilies.

Phosphates are compounds containing the element phosphorus, normally extremely toxic but not so when an ion. Phosphorus from fertilizer runoff causes massive algal blooms by providing extremely high amounts of nutrients to the free floating phytoplankton, as well as to larger rooted underwater plants (

Nitrates are are the last of the water quality parameters discussed here. Nitrates are NO3(-1) ions which come from nitrite (NO2) ions converted by bacteria into nitrates. Monitoring nitrate levels is important because as nitrates deplete dissolved oxygen, high levels will cause aerobic aquatic life - as well as humans - to have serious diseases. In very high levels, nitrates kill aquatic life.

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