Yesterday morning at sunrise, I drove north along Indian River Drive to Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Ft. Pierce. This drive, in the early hours of morning, is the most inspirational of times…
The lone herons and egrets are many, some in groups, but most alone, standing still, and stately, and eternal, waiting for a fish. Waiting for that perfect light “to see…”
Later in the day, I looked up the definition of the word “inspire” as we talked about what this meant and how to achieve such at the board meeting for the foundation. There were various definitions, but a few captured what I felt driving along Indian River Drive in the morning’s early light…
May we all be inspired by the beauty around us, the gift of the river…
1. to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration
2. to give someone the enthusiasm to do or create something
3. a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul
Recently, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, located in St Lucie County, (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/) released their “Our Global Estuary,” U.S. National Workshop, Draft Report.
The new program founded in 2013, is incredibly interesting. Harbor Branch, right here in “our own back yard,” has taken a world leadership role in one of the planet’s most important issues, one we all know quite well, the anthropogenic pressures that threaten the ecological benefits of estuaries. Harbor Branch is opening scientific dialogue on these pressures and the evolving technology that may help “save” them, by scientists sharing their experiences on such issues, scientists from all over the world. (http://ourglobalestuary.com)
Dr Megan Davis, Interim Director of Harbor Branch, co-chairing with Dr Antonio Baptista and Dr Margaret Leinen, along with other local and world scientists are leading this project.
It is noted in their publication that “comparing and contrasting estuaries and management approaches worldwide is essential to capturing and a gaining from lessons learned locally.”
The report also notes and I quote that “estuaries are vital to the planet and their extraordinary productivity that supports life in and around them…Nearly 90% of the Earth’s land surface is connected to the ocean by rivers, with much of the water that drains from lands passing through wetlands and estuaries…cleaning species like mangroves and oysters are being limited by stressors caused by humans, such as water withdrawals, hydropower operation, navigation, and the release of fertilizers, contaminants, and municipal wastes. These pressures are increasing and threatening the balance of the systems.”
As one reads on, the report discusses that population growth and land-use choices not only near the estuaries but also many miles upstream can have a significant effects on estuaries. It is noted that “as farm production methods have evolved to increase yields, more nutrients have made their way to the water causing algae overgrowth to the point of suppressing seagrass. These pressures can cause disease and death in fish, marine mammals, birds, and other animals.” Land development also impacts estuaries with its runoff and diversion or redirection of water.
The largest estuaries in the world are listed in the report are not in the United States. 1. Ganges, Indian, Bangladesh, Nepal; 2 .Yangtze (Chang Jiang), China; 3. Indus, Indian, China, Pakistan; 4. Nile, Northeastern Africa; 5. Huang He (Yellow River), China; 6. Huai He, China; 7. Niger, West Africa; 8. Hai, China; 9. Krishna, Indian; and 10. Danube, Central and Eastern Europe.
Personally, I had only heard of half of those places and it made me think about the millions of people living around estuaries all over the world and how much I really don’t know. How small we are comparatively…
Although of course the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is not one of the largest river basins in the world, we were listed under “Estuaries are Receiving More Attention” along with Chesapeake Bay. The section notes water quality is compromised in part by excess nutrients and inland freshwater discharges and diversion of water that historically flowed south through the Florida Everglades. It notes seagrass die offs, manatee, pelican and dolphin mortality, septic, agriculture and lawn fertilizer issues…
About half way down the paragraph under Indian River Lagoon, it says: “Public outcry and accompanying media attention achieved critical mass in 2013, helping convince several municipalities to enact more restrictive fertilizer ordinances and the state legislature to appropriate over 200 million in support for observation and systems remediation for the Lagoon and Everglades.”
Once again, like the Dr Seuss children’s book, Horton Hears a Who, where the residents of Whoville together shout WE’RE HERE, WE’RE HERE, finally to be heard, the Treasure Coast is noted for its efforts, this time in a document that will be shared around the world!
Thank you to Harbor Branch for its continued leadership and efforts in ocean and estuary research and thank you to the people of the Treasure Coast or “Whoville” who have been heard and continue to help save the Indian River Lagoon.
No matter the focus of technology, there is nothing more important than human relationships. I believe that the Florida League of Cities and the relationships I and others have made there in the past years have been key in giving statewide recognition to the problems of our St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
Almost all cities and towns are members of the league and membership allows cities to have many business and educational services such as insurance and legal benefits at a reasonable “collective” price. Another aspect of the league is its legislative committees that work months prior to each legislative session to come up with a “policy statement,” for league lobbyist to use during the legislative session to promote the business of the league.
The five committees are Energy, Environment and Natural Resources; Finance, Taxation and Personnel; Growth Management and Economic Development; Transportation and Inter-govermental Relations; Urban Administration.(http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com)
I first joined the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2010. It was intimidating to sit at the table with fifty or more mayors and commissioners from all over the state but it was enlightening to learn together about their issues.
It was here that I first learned first hand the extent of the destruction of our state aquifers and springs, (http://springseternalproject.org) and it was here that I got my nerve up to share about the problems of the sick St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon bottle nosed dolphins, and share how the southern Indian River Lagoon, my hometown, has the highest level of lobo mycosis, a terrible skin disease, as documented by Dr Gregory Bossert, formerly of Harbor Branch. It was here at this table I could relay the issue of the documented compromised immune systems of these dolphins due to poor water quality from pollution of local canals and especially the ACOE’s releases from Lake Okeechobee. It was here and this table that I received support. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16426180)
Over the years, the people on this committee and the staff of the Florida League of Cities like lobbyist/staff Ryan Matthews and Scott Dudley became my friends. I learned about the league and many cities’ environmental problems and they learned about Sewall’s Point’s. Ryan and Scott taught all of us how to advocate in Tallahassee for legislation on our issues.
Then in 2012, something amazing happened to me.
President of the League for 2013-14, Dr. PC Wu, councilman from Pensacola, appointed me Chair of the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I had written Dr Wu asking to chair the committee and he gave me the honor even though I am from a very small town compared to many of my fellow members. Mayor Sam Henderson of the City of Gulf Port was vice-chair. We had a good year and although not much legislation came forth this session, Springs, Septic Tanks and Estuaries, our top priorities, were hot topics of discussion and received funding from the legislature. A start…
This work occurs due to relationships. I believe the only way we will ever really save the Indian River Lagoon or the treasured springs of Florida is “together.” Water knows no boundaries, just as friendship goes beyond political parties, backgrounds, and religion.
I thank my friends from the Florida League of Cites; I will continue teach and learn about your aquifer/springs issues and I thank you for learning about our east coast Indian River Lagoon. Together we will effect change.
I believe that all animals are God’s creatures and I try to be kind to every single one, even snakes, lizards and ants. I drive my husband crazy, and he rolls his eyes if I scold him for killing a fly, but I have been this way since I was a kid. All of the animals are my friends. I always wanted to be Snow White and have the birds land on my shoulder and talk to me. So far, the cardinals in my yard sometimes come close when I put out their sunflower seeds, but that’s about it.
Upon seeing this photograph yesterday, I wanted to share because if nothing else it reminded me that we are not the only ones fighting for our lives here along the Indian River Lagoon!
This photo, taken in Sewall’s Point, is of an red rat snake, a native, and a knight anole, a non-native, that according to the Florida Wildlife Commission has lived and bred in our area for around ten years. I have had both species in my aquarium at one point or another if they were injured to rehabilitate; from what I was told, these two in the photograph were in a very healthy death grip, until one “won” of course….
By the way, in case this photo freaks you out, snakes are great natural pest control of especially rodents; they will not attack a well cared for “Fido,” so please don’t kill them.
As afar as the knight anole, non-native species are not a problem unless they start to take over native species to the point that the entire eco-system radically changes. For instance, many of you may be familiar with lion-fish which are now invading the lagoon and according to Harbor Branch Oceanographic kill/consume about 67 % of all life around them; or pythons in the everglades eating, deer, panthers, and alligators and now becoming the top predator. This is a problem… At the end of the day, it is usually humans that bring the animal into the non native area by releasing pets.
The Florida Wildlife Commission defines non-native animals as “exotic” saying:
“Exotic species are animals living outside captivity that did not historically occur in Florida. Most are introduced species, meaning they have been brought to Florida by humans. A few of Florida’s exotics arrived by natural range expansions, like cattle egrets which are native to Africa and Asia but flew across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Florida in the 1950s. Several common nonnative species, like coyotes, armadillos and red foxes, were not only introduced by humans but also spread into Florida by natural range expansions.”
So let’s know our environment, please be kind to all animals, and let’s all help nature’s balance by not releasing exotic pets into the wild along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Who won? I knew you were wondering about that…the snake!
2-11-15: Just to follow up and note how small the world is– as well as how much can happen through social media… a Harvard Professor and Curator of Herpetology, at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, at Harvard University, Johathan Losos, saw this IRL blog post above on the invasive Knight Anole and native Rat Snake fight in Sewall’s Point. He then got in touch with me, spoke to the woman at whose home this occurred, and published his own blog post for his Herpetology community. Read his blog here! Thank you Dr Losos! (http://www.anoleannals.org/2015/02/09/knight-anole-vs-red-rat-snake-who-will-win/)