Seagrass shows signs of growth following Hurricane Ian

Author: Camila Pereira
Published: Updated:

Twice a year, Elizabeth Salewski and Liz Pudlak — two South Florida Water Management District scientists — go out on a boat through the Caloosahatchee River on the hunt for seagrass. As part of the seagrass monitoring for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

“We’ve been monitoring it for many, many years to check the health of the estuary,” Philip G. Flood, Jr. said, Legislative Liaison for South Florida Water Management District. “But Everglades restoration is all about getting the water right and making sure that we’re going to have a healthy estuary, and we have enough water for the public for people and for the environment.”

While Elizabeth was in the water, gathering data on seagrass activity using a quadrat and a note pad; Liz was on the boat, measuring the water quality and light.

Gathering sea grass on the Caloosahatchee (CREDIT: WINK News)

They worked together to get an idea of the state of the environment, as Hurricane Ian wiped out over 50% of seagrass coverage in the Caloosahatchee.

“We are seeing that little bit of a recovery, which is good,” Elizabeth said. “It’s just, it’s not what it was a year ago, so the water seems to be doing well; water seems to be doing right.”

But it’s not just natural disasters that affect seagrass growth, so do invasive species, hot temperatures, and even natural vegetation like drift algae.

“There’s a lot of good things that seagrass does that we sometimes forget about, and we don’t see it from that surface,” Elizabeth said, “and that’s why we monitor it because it does let us know how healthy that ecosystem is.”

With the data they gather every year, the South Florida Water Management determines if actions need to be taken, such as releasing water from Lake Okeechobee to improve conditions.

But, the team said, with seagrass growth happening, it’s a good sign following Hurricane Ian. A step in the right direction toward recovery in Southwest Florida.

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