Seagrass Meadows

Seagrasses are unique because they are the only flowering plant that spends its entire life cycle in seawater and is one of the most important inhabitants of the Indian River Lagoon. These communities are highly productive, full of fauna, and an ecologically and economically valuable habitat by acting as nurseries, food, and homes for many aquatic species found in the lagoon such as juvenile fish, shrimp, manatees, and sea turtles. Seagrasses also add dissolved oxygen to the water thus allowing aquatic animals to breathe. Due to these activities, seagrasses are the basis for a $1 billion a year recreational and commercial fishing industry in the Indian River Lagoon.

In addition to these important features, seagrasses improve the water quality by filtering some pollutants from the water and stabilizing the loose sediment with their roots and rhizomes.

However, seagrass populations in the Indian River Lagoon have been declining. From Stuart to Titusville , 30% of the seagrass has been lost; some areas of the Indian River Lagoon have lost up to 95% of their coverage over the past 20 years.

A major reason for this decline is the reduction of the water quality of the lagoon. Storm water runoff carries nonpoint source pollution from commercial, residential, and agricultural areas into the lagoon. The runoff contains chemicals, fertilizers, silt, and debris. These pollutants negatively impact the seagrass meadows by increasing water turbidity, algal blooms, and toxicity.

Since seagrass meadows are important for the health of the Indian River Lagoon, it is important that they be protected

 

 

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