Over the past two years, I have been hearing a lot about the sorry state of the seagrass in Charlotte Harbor. Apparently, I’m not the only one, because now Sea Grant is taking action to quantify the problem.
I know some of you are saying that’s not a solution. No, it’s not — but you can’t come up with a solution until the problem has been identified, and that’s exactly what this project aims to do. So, without further ado, a press release from Sea Grant:
Soon snorkelers will begin canvassing the floor of Charlotte Harbor. They’ll be on a scavenger hunt of sorts — a hunt for data.
The data they collect will help scientists get a better picture of the health of the Harbor, and will ultimately help communities make more informed decisions about how the resource is managed, says Florida Sea Grant agent Betty Staugler, who is leading the University of Florida citizen science project.
Training for the Eyes on Seagrass program is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 11 at the Charlotte County Environmental Campus (25550 Harborview Road, Port Charlotte).
Citizen scientists will collect data during the first survey, April 12 and 25, and a second survey, July 16 and 29, in upper Charlotte Harbor along the east and west shores.
They will focus on seagrass and seaweed because these two plants provide clues about the status of the Harbor, says Staugler.
“Seagrasses reduce shoreline erosion, oxygenate the water, capture carbon, trap sediments and improve water clarity,” she says. “Seagrasses also form extensive structural habitat that supports a diverse array of species, including economically valuable fishes and invertebrates. About 85 percent of the species targeted in commercial and recreational fisheries in the Charlotte Harbor estuary depend on seagrasses for at least part of their life cycle.”
So, when seagrasses are thriving, that’s good news for the entire ecosystem. Seaweed, on the other hand, does better under conditions that are not as favorable to seagrasses, Staugler says.
“When there are more nutrients in the Harbor, seaweeds have a competitive advantage over seagrasses,” Staugler explained. “Unattached seaweeds also shade rooted seagrasses, reducing their ability to photosynthesize and ultimately shortening their growing season. From an ecosystem perspective, the shift from seagrass to seaweed could have cascading impacts on animals dependent upon seagrass for food and shelter.”
Volunteers will receive monitor gear and will work in teams of three anytime between April 12 and 25, and July 16 and 29 to survey seagrass and seaweed in upper Charlotte Harbor along the east and west shores. Volunteers must form their own teams (at least three individuals) and provide their own boat transportation, water shoes, mask, snorkel and fins. Twenty survey teams are needed.
For more info about the program or to preregister your team, contact Betty Staugler at email@example.com or call 941-764-4346.
Alrighty then — now you know what needs to be done and how you can help. Those of you who have been complaining, it’s time to step up and do something that will actually be productive. Betty is waiting.
Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@WaterLineWeekly.com.