Charlotte Harbor seagrass lost 3 decades of recovery in 2 years

Seagrass in Charlotte Harbor has lost three decades worth of recovery growth in just two years.

Charlotte Harbor is home to manatees sea turtles and plenty of fish.

Marine life there relies on the harbor’s seagrass for food and shelter. That seagrass depends on clean water and sunlight to thrive.

Eric Milbrandt is the marine lab director at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. “As long as the light field or the transparency or the water doesn’t stay nice and clear, you have the chance of losing a lot of really critically important habitat for fish and invertebrates,” Milbrandt said.

Scientists with the South and Southwest Florida Water Management Districts say the seagrass in Charlotte Harbor is dying at an alarming rate.

Overall, 23% of the seagrass has died since 2018, more than 4,500 acres. In the area near Ponce De Leon Park, 50% of the seagrass is gone.

Nicole Iadevaia is a Research and Outreach Manager at Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership. “Lately, we had hurricane Irma, we had that prolonged red tide events, we have seen a really massive macroalgae bloom,” Iadevaia said.

“We need to continue to not use fertilizer during the wet season following local guidelines,” Milbrandt said.

“We kind of have to think about seagrass does like our underwater backyard, we need to do things at home to also attend that backyard,” said Iadevaia.

If we don’t take care of our underwater backyard, the sea life will suffer at best or die at worst.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District found that seagrass is also dying in Lemon Bay. It is down about 12% since 2018 which is a loss of nearly 350 acres.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Drew Hill
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