Last week we had the pleasure of attending the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative Symposium at Palm Beach Atlantic University. It was a fantastic event where we learned so much about the Lake Worth Lagoon and it’s inhabitants. I look forward to sharing more of what we learned during the event in future posts.
Today will focus on some of the marine life that can be found in the Lake Worth Lagoon.
Our first session of the morning was entitled exactly that, “Marine Life Found in the Lake Worth Lagoon” and was presented by photographer Anne DuPont. Very entertaining and energetic, Ms. DuPont shared her experiences and photographs from diving in the area of the Lagoon by the bridges in Riveria Beach by Singer Island.
You can see a number of photos taken by Ann by visiting her profile page at the South Florida Underwater Photography Society website.
Celebrate the 10th annual Seagrass Awareness Month by learning a little more about this vital habitat that is seldom seen. Seagrass beds provide important protection for fish nurseries, scallops and other living things. Additionally, it is an important source of food for the manatee.
From the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s website:
Florida waters contain the largest sea grass meadow in the world. Approximately 2.2 million acres of seagrass beds have been mapped in nearshore Florida waters, but the total area of seagrasses in our state’s coastal waters is declining. This extremely valuable resource provides ecological services worth over $40 billion each year. Seagrass is important in providing many functions that contribute to a healthy marine ecosystem.
Florida is a world renowned fishing destination, and many economically important commercial and recreational fish and shellfish species depend on healthly seagrass beds for critical stages of their life cycle. Recreational fishing activity injected more than $4.5 billion into Florida communities in the form of retail sales, employment compensation and business earnings in 2006.
Unfortunately, seagrass beds are susceptible to injuries such as boat propeller scaring and vessel groundings. Florida has nearly one million registered boats, and boating activities can severely impact or completely wipe out localized seagrass meadows. Resource managers, scientists, and private industry consultants work together to restore damaged areas and investigate new seagrass restoration products and methods. Coastal eutrophication, the process by which water is depleted of oxygen due to overgrowth of competing smaller plants, impacts sea grass as well. Eutrophication is a major concern among leading marine and estuarine scientists because murky water limits sunlight which slows seagrass growth. Major efforts to improve and restore water quality have resulted in seagrass expansion in some Florida estuaries.
In an effort to protect and conserve this invaluable habitat, resource managers and scientists throughout Florida have been conducting intensive seagrass monitoring and mapping programs. In 2009, a total of 34 seagrass monitoring programs were identified throughout the state. March is set aside to educate residents, visitors, and all Florida boaters about the threats facing our vital seagrass meadows. Please join Governor Rick Scott in acknowledging the 10th annual Seagrass Awareness Month.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA) is responsible for the State’s 41 aquatic preserves. It is the mission of CAMA to protect, enhance, and restore the natural habitats and resources of more than 4 million acres of submerged lands. CAMA is helping to protect seagrasses by mapping and monitoring existing seagrass communities, posting signs to advise boaters of the presence of seagrasses, informing the public of the benefits of sea grass and developing restoration plans with other agencies.
We are fortunate to have such a variety of habitats within the Lake Worth Lagoon. Today, we will learn more about a few of these habitats and where they can be found within the Lagoon
Tidal Flats – According to the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, “Tidal Flats are intertidal, non-vegetated, soft sediment habitats, found between mean high-water and mean low-water spring tide datums and are generally located in estuaries and other low energy marine environments. They are distributed widely along coastlines world-wide, accumulating fine-grain sediments on gently sloping beds, forming the basic structure upon which coastal wetlands build.”
Tidal Flats support a variety of life forms such as sea grass, mangroves, invertebrates, crustaceans, bivalves and crabs and many others. You can see examples of Tidal Flats at John’s Island at the mouth of the C-51 Canal.
Wetlands – A naturally occurring habitat in Florida’s Estuaries, Wetlands provide valuable habitat for birds and other wildlife. Mangroves found in wetlands also help to filter the water and provide a favorable environment for fish nurseries.
The Snook Islands Restoration Project restored 100 acres of wetland habitat in the Lake Worth Lagoon. Where dead zones once existed, sea grasses now grow. Hundreds of bird species use the Snook Islands for food and shelter, the American Oystercatcher has even returned to the area and is one of the Snook Islands most vocal residents!
Maritime Hammock – Maritime Hammocks are some of the most rapidly disappearing habits around. They are a non-coniferous forest comprised of native tree species like Gumbo-Limbo, Sea Grape and Saw Palmetto. These coastal wooded habitats are at a higher elevation than Tidal Flats and provide food and protection for migrating birds.
The John’s Island Restoration Project created 1.4 acres of Maritime Hammock that also includes mangrove Tidal Flats, Oyster Reefs and a Tidal Inlet.
These are just a few of the more common ecosystem found right here in the Lake Worth Lagoon. These incredible restoration projects are made possible by the efforts of Palm Beach County and the Department of Environmental Resources Management.
Visit www.KayakLakeWorth.com learn about Kayak rentals and tours in the Lake Worth Lagoon