Sea Grass Replanting test


Article from TC Palm

Post-doctoral interns Angela Capper, of Australia, and Mark Clementz, of Fort Pierce, pack up their collected sea grass from the Indian River Lagoon to take back to the lab at the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce for a study on marine life in 2005. Research efforts on local sea grass are ongoing. 



Post-doctoral interns Angela Capper, of Australia, and Mark Clementz, of Fort Pierce, pack up their collected sea grass from the Indian River Lagoon to take back to the lab at the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce for a study on marine life in 2005. Research efforts on local sea grass are ongoing. file

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Transplanted sea grasses could help to fill barren spots in the Indian River Lagoon where about 50 square miles of them have died since 2009, St. Johns River Water Management District scientists say.

To put their theory to the test, water managers intend to hand-harvest shoal grass from lush underwater meadows around Merritt Island near Cocoa Beach and hand-plant them into dead spots from Vero Beach to Cape Canaveral, district environmental scientist Joel Steward said.

If the 3 1/2-year experiment proves successful — meaning the sea grass not only survives but grows — it could lead to large-scale replanting in the future.

“We would have to find a way to come up with additional sea grass and that could be an issue,” district spokesman Hank Largin said. “We likely would need to get some type of federal funding to be able to purchase larges amount of sea grass to plant.”


The district will plant plugs into fewer than 30 possible locations scientists have identified, starting from north of Cape Canaveral to south of the Wabasso Bridge. The district plans to start small, with three to five experimental sites north of the Sebastian Inlet in the first year. No transplants are planned for areas south of the inlet this year.

“If this works, perhaps we can move into a fuller phase and do larger areas,” Steward said. “If all goes well, we may be adding sites in the second year. Then, if it still looks good, we may try to pull in federal dollars and donations” for a larger effort.

The district plans to contract with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute for $85,000 to do the transplant feasibility study through 2015, said St. Johns environmental scientist Bob Chamberlain.

The district will begin planting in mid- to late-July, having recently received the last of the required permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Largin said.


Researchers at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association in Fort Pierce who have been testing the water and sediments near the Wabasso Bridge say they hope water managers first determine whether they’ve chosen areas where sea grasses can grow.

ORCA scientists believe there may be something in the sediments and/or overly acidic water in some areas that could be at least partially be responsible for the death of sea grasses in the Wabasso area. Their test samples are still out at labs, ORCA founder Edie Widder said.

The transplant project is part of a larger, multi-year effort to investigate the algae blooms that are killing sea grasses, particularly in the northern part of the lagoon.

“(We want) to look specifically at some of the underlying drivers to see why we have frequent, high-magnitude algal blooms,” Seward said.

The blooms, particularly a “superbloom” in 2011, significantly reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the sea grasses. Another bloom occurred last summer and one has begun this year.

Indian River is a “Killing Zone”

Florida’s Indian River Lagoon Is A “Killing Zone” Of Mass Animal Deaths: Report (VIDEO)

Posted: 06/20/2013 10:38 am EDT  |  Updated: 06/20/2013 11:39 am EDT

Dozens of bottlenose dolphins have succumbed to the “killing zone” of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon.

Day after day, dolphins floated up dead, emaciated down to their skeletons. Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, considered one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, was in dire crisis. 200024414-001

And it wasn’t just the 46 dead bottlenose dolphins. The casualty list is long and depressing: gone are 47,000 acres of sea grass beds, 111 manatees, and 300 pelicans, reports Fox News.

It’s been described as a “killing zone” and a “mass murder mystery” that is perplexing biologists.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that scientists believe it may be due to one or several causes: fertilizer-laced stormwater runoff, polluted water dumped from Lake Okeechobee by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, climate change and effects on acidity, changes in water temperature and salt levels, and overflow from contaminated mosquito-control ditches.

The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University was counting on $2 million in state funds to study the dead bodies piling up at Indian River Lagoon.

Except Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the research project in May, writing in his veto letter “While some water projects may also contribute to a statewide objective, not all projects demonstrate an ability to contribute to a statewide investment.”

Since Scott took office in 2009, his smaller government approach has slashed regulation and conservation programs, reports the Broward New Times.

He even reportedly replacedexperienced Department of Environmental Protection employees with people from polluting industries.

Scott also recently put the state’s water quality under the DEP as opposed to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The new changes would be significant because many are less-stringent than the bare minimum recommended by the Environmental Protection Agencyand existing standards in Alabama,” a former member of Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission told the Orlando Sentinel.

Meanwhile Marty Baum of the Indian Riverkeeper told Fox News, “The lagoon is in a full collapse, it is ongoing.”

How you can help: Adopt a manatee through the Save The Manatee Club, which rehabilitates sea cows and works to protect their habitats. Something in Florida Lagoon is Killing Manatees


Jul. 11, 2013 3:01pm 

Since this time last year 51 dolphins, 111 manatees and up to 300 pelicans have been found dead in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, but no one can figure out what the mysterious killer is, according to a report by Wired.

Whatever is causing the animals to perish works so fast, the report stated, that some of the manatees still have food in their mouths, although it wasn’t their typical food. Interestingly enough, other dead wildlife animals seems to be starving.

indian river lagoon

So far, the only thing those that investigating the case can tie together is that it all seems to center around the lagoon, which Wired noted more than two decades ago was called an “estuary of national significance” by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Several agencies – St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Hubbs–SeaWorld Research Institute and NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center — are evaluating various facets of these unusual deaths related to the lagoon.

According to St. Johns River Water Management District, in 2011 a “superbloom” of algae occurred, killing about 60 percent of the system’s seagrass, a primary source of food for the manatees and of importance for fish as well. A second brown tide boom occurred in August 2012.

Something Killing Manatees, Dolphins in Florida Indian River Lagoon

Wired reported that the widespread manatee death began last July, reached a height this spring and seems to have tapered from there. The pelicans began dying in February, and then the dolphin die off started.

“They’re in good body condition from what we can tell, no other diseases or signs of trauma,” Veterinarian Martine DeWit with FWC said, according to Wired of the manatees.

The food in some of the manatee’s digestive tracts, DeWit said, is unusual for them though:

Instead of sea grass, pathologists are finding macroalgae, mostly Gracilaria, in the manatees’ digestive tracts. This type of seaweed is normally not toxic. But, “on microscopic examination of the tissues, we found some inflammation in the wall of their gastrointestinal system,” DeWit said, noting that the changes were only minor. “Our first thought is it has to be something associated with the algae – something in the sediment, absorbed by the algae, or a compound of the algae itself.”

Unlike the manatees, Wired noted researchers saying the dolphins and the pelicans look like they starved.

Something Killing Manatees, Dolphins in Florida Indian River Lagoon

But when the investigators seek out toxins, infections or other suspects, they find nothing:

Whether the skinny dolphins are the result of depleted or shifting fish stocks, parasites, toxins, disease, or something that simply makes it hard for them to catch fish, is unknown. What scientists do know is that the number of dolphin mortalities during the first half of a normal year is around 17. With roughly 700 dolphins living in the entire lagoon, this year’s mortality rate is already approaching 10 percent of the population.

Biologist Megan Stolen with Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute told Wired “the entire lagoon is changing” and that to figure out the problem, they are “[looking] at the whole picture.”

It is still an option that all these deaths are unrelated to each other but all “the result of a multi-pronged ecological catastrophe,” as Wired put it:

Connecting crashing seagrasses with vegetarian manatees, fish-eating mammals and fish-eating birds is not easy. Complicating the picture is that other seagrass-eating species, such as sea turtles, appear unaffected. Other fish-eating species, such as cormorants and herons, are mostly unperturbed. The bull shark population scavenging the dolphin carcasses doesn’t appear to be in trouble. And though the dolphins and pelicans both eat fish, they’re not necessarily eating the same fish.

This year again a brown algal bloom is starting to spread. At this time, some scientists are trying to figure out what brought on the 2011 and 2012 blooms.

“The lagoon’s health had been improving, and then out of the blue came this unforeseen superbloom,” William Tredik with the Indian River Lagoon Protection Initiative said to Wired. “The algal blooms seem to have been the catalyst for a lot of other things, but we don’t have all those links figured out yet.”

Watch this Tampa Bay Times video about the mass deaths:

Read more details about the lagoon’s history and current work being done to figure out what is killing some of the wildlife in Wired’s full article.