600 acres of Seagrass is Dead in “One of the most Biodiverse Estuaries in North America,” SLR/IRL

I was on the Army Corp of Engineers Periodic Scientist Call this past Tuesday. These are excellent calls and one learns quickly the difficulties and the burdens of water management for our state and federal agencies in the state of Florida. I have participated in the calls as an elected official for the Town of Sewall’s Point since 2012.

This past Tuesday, something was said that struck me. Mark Perry, of Florida Oceanographic, reported something to the effect that over 600 acres of seagrasses inside the St Lucie Inlet are now “sand bottom.”  Six hundred acres….

I went home and asked my husband that night at dinner…”Ed could it really be six-hundred acres? The seagrasses dead?”

“Easy.” He replied. “Just think of when I lived at the house at 22 South Sewall’s Point road when we first got married in 2005, and we’d walk out with the kayaks and there was lush seagrass  all the way out ….well that’s gone–its gone all around the peninsula–you can see this from the air.”

Ed took some aerial photos the day after this conversation. Yesterday. I am including them today.

—-So it’s true, 600 acres of seagrasses are dead in one of the most bio-diverse estuaries in North America, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon or southern IRL —for many years, as many of us know, confidently cited as not “one of,” but rather, “the most diverse…”

The Army Corp has been releasing from Lake Okeechobee this year since January 29th, 2016. We are only in June and there is more to come. Yes there is…there is “more to come” from us. There has to be. Because we are losing or have lost —everything.

Please compare the 1977 photo and then the 2012 map to photos taken yesterday. Please  don’t give up the fight to bring back life to this estuary.

Aerial of seagrasses in 1977 in and around Sailfish and Sewall's Point.
Aerial of seagrasses in 1977 in and around Sailfish and Sewall’s Point displaying rich seagrass beds. FOS
map of seagrasses in area
Seagrass map of seagrasses in area from SFWMD/MC ca. 2012. JTL

 

Aerial photos taken by Ed Lippisch, 5-25-16. St Lucie Inlet area, the Crossroads and Sailfish Flats between and around Sailfish Point and Sewall's Point in the confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
All aerial photos taken by Ed Lippisch, 5-25-16. St Lucie Inlet area, the Crossroads and Sailfish Flats between and around Sailfish Point and Sewall’s Point in the confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon near the St Lucie Inlet. This area has been inundated by release from Lake Okeechobee and area canals for many years most recently particularly Lake O during 2013 and 2016.

IMG_1587 IMG_1598 IMG_1591 IMG_1602 IMG_1597 IMG_1584 IMG_1583 IMG_1604 IMG_1589 IMG_1605 IMG_1595 IMG_1576 IMG_1578 IMG_1585 IMG_1586 IMG_1582 IMG_1588 IMG_1603 IMG_1601 IMG_1590

Harbor Branch IRL: https://www.fau.edu/hboi/meh/IRL.Fact.Sheet.pdf

IRL Smithsonian/IRL: http://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/Maps.htm

“Life in Seagrasses” UF: https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/southflorida/habitats/seagrasses/life/

Former JTL blog on ACOE Periodic Scientist calls: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/03/06/the-acoes-periodic-scientists-call-and-the-indian-river-lagoon/

6 thoughts on “600 acres of Seagrass is Dead in “One of the most Biodiverse Estuaries in North America,” SLR/IRL

  1. The sea grass beds have been chemically “scoured”… and our State of Florida stands idly by and allows this to happen for the benefit of the agricultural industries of South Florida… killing the east and west coast estuaries, the IRL, Florida Bay and more… give us our Florida Everglades swamp back and grow rice!

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  2. This reminds me of the movie The Killing Fields. As sad as this disaster is to report on, and given how busy you are with your own election work, I still very much appreciate you’re documentation, and Ed’s photographs that clearly shows it all.

    This is a criminal act perpetrated against Nature, the environment, and everything that makes Florida unique. It will not change until we have the political will in Tallahassee to fix a broken plumbing system that was never meant to be used this way, and then levy fines against those special interest groups who subjugated the science and the system for their own financial gain.

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  3. 600 acres is just about one square mile. Obviously, there has been much more destruction of the IRL seagrass beds that that, as documented by Ed’s photos.

    “But it’s what they do in their native habitat that has the biggest benefits for humans and the ocean. Seagrasses support commercial fisheries and biodiversity, clean the surrounding water and help take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Because of these benefits, seagrasses are believed to be the third most valuable ecosystem in the world (only preceded by estuaries and wetlands). One hectare of seagrass (about two football fields) is estimated to be worth over $19,000 per year, making them one of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet.”
    http://ocean.si.edu/seagrass-and-seagrass-beds

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  4. That phrase about being the most diverse in North America actually referred to the area around St. Lucie Inlet, NOT the “lagoon”. It was the Stuart News and some followers who morphed the river crisis into a lagoon deal. Grant Gilmore and a few others were talking about a diameter of some 10 miles around the inlet, not the 160 mile lagoon.

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  5. Jacqui,

    Thank you for posting this. I was out on the flats with a filmmaker “in search of seagrass” on Friday, May 20 when it struck me really hard. I am really mad and very sad all at the same time. I recall times just like Ed describes when Chris and I were out there in thick seagrass beds and also in 1975 when Grant Gilmore did his big sampling on the seagrass beds near Bessy Cove that had the highest biodiversity of anywhere. When we all went out with Grant last year with Tyler Treadway and Ed Killer of TC Palm we were all “searching for seagrass” and in the little we found with the big seine net, there was a lot less number of species and some that were not there 40 years later.

    I still well up thinking about it but thank you for bringing it out and telling the story.

    Blessings,

    Mark

    Mark D. Perry
    Executive Director
    Florida Oceanographic Society
    890 NE Ocean Blvd.
    Stuart, Florida 34996
    772-225-0505 x103
    772-486-3858 (Cell)
    772-225-4725 (Fax)
    http://www.FloridaOcean.org

    Florida Oceanographic’s mission is to inspire environmental stewardship of Florida’s coastal ecosystems through education, research and advocacy.

    Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle

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