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Marine Resources Council issues 2022 report card on Indian River Lagoon

The Marine Resources Council issued its 2022 edition of the Indian River Lagoon Coastal Community Report Card on Mar. 10, which depicted some good news with respect to improvements in water quality in the IRL, but also an alarming loss in seagrass as well.

The presentation began focusing on the positive in the lagoon, which was the improvement in water quality.

“We have been watching this change over really the last five years that clarity in particular was returning and these harmful algal blooms that had been occurring that were being sustained, they were just lasting for a long, long time,” said Dr. Leesa Souto, executive director at the Marine Resources Council. “They were starting to dissipate so that it wasn’t so much coverage of algae and so as a result, chlorophyll-a started to improve and that’s the measurement of algae so there’s less harmful algae which is great news and of course with less harmful algae, the water gets clearer.”

Per the MRC’s website, “infrastructure improvements and behavior changes that are reducing storm water runoff, untreated sewage discharges, faulty septic systems and residential sources, such as pet waste, and fertilizer are helping.”

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In all, Dr. Souto praised the community efforts for their efforts to help improve the IRL.

“Thank God for this community and its outrage and willingness to yell, scream, plant mangroves, carry 100-pound cement oyster prisms and build reefs, do whatever it takes, do water quality testing every single week for 20 years some people are doing,” Dr. Souto said. “What people are willing to volunteer to do is just so impressive and stunning and inspirational.”

On the downside, Dr. Souto discussed a decline in seagrass in the lagoon. The MRC’s website referred to seagrass as the “essence of life in the lagoon.”

Currently, researchers are working to try to figure out what is causing the seagrass decline despite the increase in water quality.

“….Before we can even start thinking about any other reason for seagrass decline, we need to acknowledge that the water needs to be clear for seagrass to survive,” Dr. Souto said. “We’re excited because the water’s been getting clearer and clearer and that’s great news and hopefully it’s in response to the hard work of everybody so we knew that this effort was going to be more of a long-term effort.”

Dr. Souto discussed work that is going on throughout the site in an isolated manner, noting that collaboration could be the key to solving the problem.

“So what we want to do with this seagrass assembly is put everybody together, share what we know, come up with a plan and then start asking the tough questions. Before we can crack the code, we need to have a protocol to get in there. We need to start figuring out what questions do we even need to ask right now. I brought up some of them, things like, can herbicides kill seagrass? That’s an empirical question.”

Grades were given at a variety of different Brevard locales, and that was repeated throughout the rest of the lagoon, which also runs through Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties.

Those interested in more information about the MRC should visit savetheirl.org.

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