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.