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Planting Seagrass Gardens to Help Restore the Caloosahatchee River

WGCU / Andrea Perdomo
Five "herbivore exclusion cages" rest over planted seagrass to protect seedlings from being grazed before becoming established.

Of the many issues facing the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary, the major decline in seagrass beds is one of the most obvious signs of the ecosystem’s decline. Seagrass beds used to be found throughout the waterway and estuary, but that’s changed drastically in recent years, mostly because of shifting salinity levels throughout the year, often caused by freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee, and lack of sunlight because of dark water, and more recently the major bloom of toxic blue-green algae which blocked even more sunlight.

But, a project to try to grow small underwater gardens as a source of seeds to begin restoring seagrasses throughout the system are starting to show signs of progress. This project is led by the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, in partnership with local citizens and a Winter Garden-based company called Sea & Shoreline. We’re joined in studio today by the CHNEP's Executive Director, Jennifer Hecker, to learn more.

We'll also check in with Joanna Fitzgerald, Director of the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, to find out what she's dealing with, as dead dolphins are washing up on area beaches, and seabirds are falling out of the sky.