two ladies standing in water planting seagrass

Seagrass: the Lagoon Barometer of Health

For more than a decade the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) has experienced extensive seagrass loss. Seagrass coverage and distribution is an important indicator of lagoon health, and its growth and survival and are an important part of IRL restoration.

According to a recent report by the IRL National Estuary Program, a single acre of seagrass can produce over 10 tons of leaves per year, providing food, habitat, and nursery areas for a myriad of adult and juvenile vertebrates and invertebrates. It may also support as many as 40,000 fish and 50 million small invertebrates.

Seagrass Pilot Project

Brevard Zoo has partnered with seagrass restoration experts for more than five years, learning techniques for growing, planting and monitoring seagrass in the IRL. In Spring of 2020, the Zoo planted our first seagrass restoration project and conducted regular monitoring of the project.

This small pilot project paved the way to our increased seagrass restoration work, which includes planting 24 seagrass beds throughout the lagoon this year. Check back here for the results, once monitoring of these beds has been conducted.

Building a Seagrass Nursery

With seagrass loss continuing and needing to address the issue, Restore Our Shores (ROS) partnered with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute to design, build, and operate a seagrass nursery in Melbourne Beach. The nursery will grow seagrasses for planting in the IRL and be maintained with volunteer support.

There are seven kinds of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon, and the nursery will grow out all IRL seagrass species but focus on Halodule wrightii for restoration plantings. The nursery supports tanks for both large-scale grow-out and separate, smaller tanks for research, for use by both the ROS team and our partners. ROS aims to open additional nurseries in the future to further the goal of seagrass restoration in the IRL.

Help Us Restore Our Shores

Restore Our Shores needs your donations and/or volunteer time to reverse environmental damage. Take a look through our project sections to see the ways our volunteers are already helping. If you’re interested in learning more about Living Shorelines, sign up for our updates.