Everyone benefits from sea grasses
Seagrass is economically and ecologically valuable to human beings as well as marine life. It is one of the most
productive natural communities in the world and is a principal contributor to the marinerefers to sea water, to sediments deposited in sea water, or to animals that live in the sea, as opposed to fresh water.
food webThe non-linear relationship between food items which eat each other. Yet, over a period of fifty years, as Florida's
population grew more than five-fold, the State's seagrass areas diminished by almost two thirds.
Essentially, healthy seagrass equates directly with more, healthier fish to catch.
How do we harm seagrass?
Being aware of how seagrass can be damaged is the first step in protecting these valuable marine environments.
Over Fishing: Fewer larger fish allow more smaller fish (pinfish) to grow which consume more grazers
(gastropodsMolluscs of the large class Gastropoda, which includes snails, slugs, and whelks, amphipodsA crustacean of the chiefly marine order Amphipoda, having a laterally compressed body and a large number of leg-like appendages.,
etc.) hence, more epiphytesType of vegetation that gets its physical support from the branches of other plants. Commonly found in the tropical forests. grow and increase leaf shading
which leads to weaker seagrass and less growth.
Increased Eutrophication : More nutrientsAny food, chemical element or compound an organism requires to live, grow, or reproduce.
mean more epiphytes, and increased shading, which causes weaker seagrass and less growth.
Storm Water Runoff: Water runoffThe topographic flow of water from precipitation to stream channels located at lower elevations. Occurs when the infiltration capacity of an area's soil has been exceeded. It also refers to the water leaving an area of drainage. Also called overland flow.
containing chemicals, fertilizers, siltMineral particle with a size between 0.004 and 0.06 millimeters in diameter. Also see clay and sand., and debris is a major
threat to seagrass. Runoff from residential, industrial, and agricultural areas contain contaminantsSomething that contaminates.
that are carried through storm drains to Florida’s waterways and into the seagrasses. The more people move to
coastal areas the greater the damage caused.
Careless Boating: Improper boating activity in shallow waters is a travesty we can all avoid. Boat
propellers can rip up seagrass and dig trenches through seagrass meadowsSeagrass Meadows consist of specialized marine flowering plants which have adapted to the environment near the shore. Some species need to be exposed at low tide or need some fresh water inflow in order to thrive, and some can thrive in a range from fresh to salt water conditions., which make it impossible fish and animals to grow there. Such damage may take a decade or more to recover,
if at all (when only barren areas remain)
Dredging and Building: Dredge and fill projects, construction of marinas, and building of docks and
bridges also cause immeasurable damage to seagrass. Resulting turbidity and docks built to waterfront homes shade out
seagrass so that it can not grow.
Power Stations: Heated effluent from power stations can kill off huge areas of a seagrass meadow.
Why should this be?
Seagrass is fragile and can be inadvertently harmed by human activities in and around the coastal waters of Florida.
Seagrasses are underwater flowering plants that live in Florida’s protected bays, lagoons, and other shallow
coastal waters. Because they require sunlight to grow, most seagrasses are found in clear shallow waters. These grass-like
plants form small patchy beds that develop over many decades into large contiguous beds, known as meadows, which in good
quality water with minimal disturbances, grow lush and thick. Food is taken up from the biomassThe total mass of living matter within a given unit of environmental area.
through root forms as well as from the water column. We can all use common sense and consideration, and behave sensibly
to help protect these valuable underwater plants.
Some simple rules to follow :
- Be Aware (Use your head)
If you live near the coast or along a river, be careful when applying fertilizers and pesticidesA chemical that kills, controls, drives away, or modifies the behavior of pests.
to your lawn. Use only the amount of fertilizer specified for the product and prefer using a
slow release fertilizer. Chemicals not consumed by vegetation run off to do harm elsewhere. Gutters and storm drains
transport excess lawn chemicals to the water.
- Read the Waters
Wear polarized sunglasses when boating to reduce the surface glare to help you see shallow areas and seagrass beds.
Polarized sunglasses can also help you see and avoid manatees and underwater hazards.
- Know your Boating Signs and Markers
Operate your boat in marked channels to prevent running aground and damaging your boat and seagrass beds. Know the
correct side to stay on when approaching channel markers. Learn the shapes and markings of signs warning boaters of
dangerous shallows and areas where boats are prohibited by law.
- Know your Depth and Draft
When in doubt about the depth, slow down and idle. If you are leaving a muddy trail behind your boat, you are
probably cutting seagrass. Tilt or stop your engine if necessary. If you run aground, pole or walk your boat to deeper
water. Never try to motor your way out. This will cause extensive damage to seagrass and may harm your motor. Know the
times for your low and high tides.
- Be on the Lookout
When your boat is underway, always keep a sharp lookout ahead of you and be aware of your surroundings. This will
keep you and your passengers safe, as well as keep seagrass and marine animals out of danger.
- Be Considerate
Docks, boathouses, and even boats can block sunlight from reaching the seagrass below. When building or repairing a
dock, consider building the dock five feet above the water and using grating rather than planks. Extend the dock to
deeper water so your boat does not shade seagrass.
- Study your Charts
Use navigational charts, fishing maps, or local boating guides to become familiar with waterways. These nautical
charts alert you to shallow areas so you don’t run aground and damage seagrass. Know before you go.
What is being done to protect seagrass?
As Florida has become more urbanized, thousands of acres of seagrass meadowsSeagrass Meadows consist of specialized marine flowering plants which have adapted to the environment near the shore. Some species need to be exposed at low tide or need some fresh water inflow in order to thrive, and some can thrive in a range from fresh to salt water conditions. off the coast have been lost. Scientists use aerial photographs and geographic computer systems to monitor
the status of seagrass off Florida. As a result, many efforts are underway to educate residents about the benefits of
seagrass and how they can help protect the seagrass meadows.
Water Quality Efforts: Government regulations aimed at protecting water qualityA term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for a particular purpose. also protect seagrass. Private industry helps by ensuring that their industrial dischargesAny effluent being discharged to waters from an industrial plant or factory and stormwater runoff meet acceptable levels of quality. Some private
industries have organized and are collectively reducing pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances.
from entering coastal waters.
Volunteer Organizations: Several organizations have implemented programs to plant and monitor the
health of seagrass. Community action groups organize clean up days for shorelines near their neighborhoods.
Local Efforts: Planning and zoning regulations have been implemented in many communities to protect
seagrass by ensuring compatible land-use practices along Florida’s shorelines.
Citizens: Through good landscape management practices and the prevention of debris and excess
chemicals from going down storm sewers, are helping to protect the seagrass. Many citizens are taking safe boating
courses and learning more about the marinerefers to sea water, to sediments deposited in sea water, or to animals that live in the sea, as opposed to fresh water. environmentall of the external factors that may act on an organism, either plant or animal, or on a natural community. For example: gravity, air, wind, sunlight, moisture, temperature, soil, and other organisms are some of the environmental factors that may affect the life processes of an organism.
before venturing out into coastal waters.
Hundreds of marine plants and animals live among seagrass and form a complex and fragile community. Sea
turtles and manatees graze upon seagrass. Many types of shrimp, crabs, worms, snails, and small fish spend their entire
lives within seagrass meadowsSeagrass Meadows consist of specialized marine flowering plants which have adapted to the environment near the shore. Some species need to be exposed at low tide or need some fresh water inflow in order to thrive, and some can thrive in a range from fresh to salt water conditions.. Larger fish and
seabirds visit seagrass meadows to eat these smaller animals.
Seventy percent of Florida’smarine recreational fish depend upon seagrass communities at some time in
their lives. Seagrass largely sustains Florida’s thriving recreational and commercial fishing industries.
Seagrass also improves the water quality by stabilizing loose sediment and filtering some pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances.
out of the water. Without seagrass, many areas would be a seascape of unstable shifting sand and mudThe habitat for essential micro-organisms, is as important as water to the health of this planet. Edward S Deevey Jr.
Seagrass communities are an integral part of the web connecting shallow water habitants that link wetlandNatural land-use type that is covered by salt water or fresh water for some time period. This land type can be identified by the presence of particular plant species or characteristic conditions.
and mangroveTreed wetlands located on the coastlines in warm tropical climates. communities to hardbottom and coralsmall, colonial, bottom-dwelling, marine animals that secrete external skeletons of calcium carbonate (calcite). The colonies they create with their skeletons can make enormous reef-complexes, such as the Florida Keys, the Australian Great Barrier Reef, and many coral islands in the Pacific Ocean, and other oceans.
We, the citizens, need to play our part in preserving our seagrass meadows to sustain our fisheries,
our quality of life and that of generations to come.