two ladies standing in water planting seagrass

Seagrass: the Indicator of Lagoon 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.

In May of 2023, the Restore Our Shores program significantly expanded the scope of our pilot seagrass planting projects. With funding provided by private donations and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, 24 pilot seagrass beds were planted throughout the Brevard County portion of the Indian River Lagoon. These sites were selected throughout the lagoon to help Restore Our Shores better understand the success of seagrass plantings in various environmental conditions to aid future conservation efforts. Plans for additional seagrass beds are already underway and will be planted in May 2024.

Building a Seagrass Nursery

In response to extensive seagrass loss in the IRL, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program sought to partner with organizations who could help increase seagrass nursery capacity along the lagoon. With funding from the National Estuary Program in 2023, Restore Our Shores (ROS) constructed two seagrass nurseries in Brevard: one in Melbourne Beach in partnership with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, and another at Rockledge Gardens. These nurseries are growing seagrasses for planting in the IRL and are maintained with volunteer support.

There are seven kinds of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon, but ROS is currently focused on growing Halodule wrightii for restoration plantings due to its wide range of habitat conditions. The Melbourne Beach 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. 

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.