"To protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."

Volunteers count fish and plants in the marsh

Apr 29th, 2015 | Category: Blogs, MDC News, Shoreline Restoration News

IMG_20150423_092523594How do you know if your salt marsh is healthy? You perform a check-up of course! In this case, MDC volunteers worked as ‘doctors’ alongside our restoration staff as well as biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife and the University of Central Florida. We last surveyed the flora and fauna in the marsh 6 months ago, right after we finished planting 25,000 native plants to get the restoration project started. Many of these were small Spartina alterniflora plugs that will eventually fill in to create a sustainable nursery for future restoration projects. We were ready to see how our salt marsh has progressed since October.

First, the team pulled a 50 foot seine net through the marsh at low tide. Our net yielded hundreds of small fish, shrimp, and crabs, revealing which species are using the marsh and at what life stage. One strong indicator of health was the capture of numerous killifish, a ‘marsh resident’ species that will spend its entire life in this habitat. We seined in 3 predetermined locations to find out which species are utilizing different areas of the salt marsh.

MDC Fish Survey and Plant Survey 025After seining, the survey team completed a vegetation survey. At 22 specified locations in the marsh, we documented and measured the plants growing in 1 square meter. The volunteers brushed up on their plant identification, and we even found a few new species that have moved in. This survey provides a measure of how well our initial plantings are growing and spreading. The spring rains have resulted in a lot of new shoots and growth throughout the 5-acre marsh. IMG_20150423_094341880

Finally, a few volunteers finished the day by setting up a fyke net, which provides information about which species of fish and invertebrates are moving in and out of the marsh with the tides. As the tide fell through the afternoon, we were able to capture and measure the organisms leaving the marsh, such as mojarra and blue crabs.

The plants and animals measured in the most recent survey will be compared to the counts from October recorded from the exact same locations. The surveys will be completed every 6 months to continue learning about the species using the restored salt-marsh habitat. To visit the marsh or learn more about our restoration efforts, come to the Marine Discovery Center at 520 Barracuda Blvd in New Smyrna Beach, FL.