September Seagrass SurveysOct 2nd, 2013 | Category: AAE Volunteer, MDC News
Adopt-An-Estuary volunteers have completed the fall seagrass surveys at our 5 sites in the northern Indian River Lagoon! The sites are part of a network of 100 sites throughout the IRL that have been monitored by St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) since the mid-1990s. The survey results allow SJRWMD to regularly map and monitor seagrass beds throughout the lagoon.
The first day, four Adopt-An-Estuary volunteers, along with the AAE coordinator and the Volusia County Environmental Management Manatee Program associate surveyed three sites near Canaveral National Seashore. Under blue skies the water was brown and murky, as lingering ‘brown tide’ algae limited our visibility. The awesome team of volunteers quickly learned how to survey underwater using their hands, rather than their eyes.
Prior to conducting the surveys, volunteers reviewed material on seagrass, algae, epiphytes, and survey techniques. Although we didn’t see as much grass as we would have liked, we saw plenty of dolphins and manatees in the area.
On the second day of surveys, we headed to Oak Hill with another four AAE volunteers to complete the two final sites. At our first site, we found thick, long seagrass along the entire transect, although visibility was still limited. The second site had patches of seagrass, and was quite deep. Thanks to our captain’s creativity, we used a home-made weight belt to stay underwater long enough to complete the counts there. Next time, we’ll pack a few weight belts! Despite a bit of rain, the still-smiling volunteers all agreed it was a great day on the water.
All the data has been submitted to Ms. Lori Morris, an environmental scientist at SJRWMD who has been surveying seagrasses in the IRL for over 20 years. Ms. Morris recently spoke about the state of the seagrass beds at our IRL Public Forum on September 26th.
Although her surveys show steady growth of seagrass beds followed by a recent drastic loss in most areas, she remains hopeful about the resilience of the lagoon. Some regions are starting to show slow regrowth of seagrass. In other areas, experimental seagrass transplants quickly attracted fish and invertebrates to a previously bare area. It may be several years before we see a lagoon full of thick seagrass beds again, but if we control our pollution levels and work to restore the natural ecosystem, we’ll be on the right track!