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Marine biologist says water quality issues need to be resolved before planting new sea grass

An underwater photograph of seagrass.
Photo courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminsitration

In its annual report card on the status of the Indian River Lagoon, the Marine Resources Council raised the alarm about the continued loss of sea grass and the vital importance of restoring sea grass to our lagoons.
Dr. James Fourqurean is a professor of marine ecology at Florida International University. He has studied sea grasses around the world, and shares concerns about its rapid loss of it in our region.

Over the last 10 years the Indian River Lagoon and Biscayne Bay have lost up to 100% of their sea grass in some areas, said Dr. Fourqurean. But he believes that ongoing efforts to plant sea grass are premature, because water quality issues should be resolved first.

"We have to fix the things that are driving water quality down," he said. "We have to fix those before we try to put sea grasses in so the sea grasses can actually survive.”

 Dr. James Fourqurean
Photo courtesy fiu.edu
Dr. James Fourqurean

Sea grass is the foundational web of life within the Indian River lagoon, supporting various fish species, clams and crabs, and the manatees. The grass is dying at an alarming rate because of bad land use practices in the watersheds that feed the lagoon, Fourqurean said.

“So this water gets to the lagoon and it fertilizes things that sea grass don’t like," explained Fourqurean. "Sea weeds and other things grow out over the sea grass, and sea grass needs a whole lot of light. So if they don’t get at least 70 to 80 percent of the suns light they can’t photosynthesize enough to grow.”

Dr. Fourqurean underscored the importance of restoring the sea grass by pointing out the link between our regions environmental health and our economic well-being.

“So much of our economy in Florida is based on clear water, the eco-systems that clear water support, and the things that we do to derive livelihood from those eco-systems," he said.
Copyright 2022 WQCS. To see more, visit WQCS.

Kevin Kerrigan
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