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Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves - Management Issues Quick Topics

These management issues are for four of the aquatic preserves in the Indian River Lagoon: Banana River, Indian River-Malabar to Vero Beach, Indian River-Vero Beach to Fort Pierce, and Jensen Beach to Jupiter Inlet. While Mosquito Lagoon, Loxahatchee River-Lake Worth Creek and North Fork St. Lucie aquatic preserves are also critical components of the Indian River Lagoon System, separate management issues and strategies to deal with them have been identified.

An algal bloom

Water Quality

The degradation of water quality within the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve System and the effects of stormwater discharges on the estuarine system are well documented. Primary factors affecting water quality in the IRL are the quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of stormwater runoff from urban and agricultural sources. More specifically, the system suffers from salinity imbalances, turbid water, high nutrient and sediment loading, hypoxia, and heavy metal and pesticide accumulation in the sediments. The consequences of these physical and chemical disturbances include fish kills, chronic fish abnormalities (fin rot, ulcerations, scoliosis, abnormal lateral lines, scale disorientation, discolored patches, live rot on body, eye and body deformities, growths, bleeding, and severe parasite infestation), algal blooms, a shift from nekton to plankton-dominated system, low transparency, and a lack of SAV and oyster reefs.

Volunteers planting marsh grass

Loss of Natural Community Function and Species Diversity

Habitats within the IRLAP System consist primarily of shallow water communities which comprise some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the United States. Major ecological communities present include tidal wetlands, mudflats, oyster reefs, seagrass beds and islands.

While many of these communities within and adjacent to the IRLAP System continue to be highly diverse and productive, they have suffered impacts as the result of growth and development in the region. These impacts threaten long-term sustainability of the IRLAP System's natural resources. There have been losses to wetlands and seagrass acreage, impacts to oyster reef extent and function, and an influx of non-native, invasive plants and animals. In addition, there is the potential for additional losses of these habitats in the future from incompatible land use practices and public use.

Volunteers repair a picnic table

Sustainable Public Use

The Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves System is a popular destination for many recreational fishermen, boaters, kayakers, birders and a host of other user groups. The IRLAP System also supports several commercial uses including commercial fishing (fin fish and shellfish), fishing guides and several ecotourism operations. The aquatic preserves within the IRLAP System were designated for the primary purpose of preserving the biological resources in the area and maintaining these resources in an essentially natural condition for the benefit of future generations.

Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves

If you want to help preserve the Indian River Lagoon, consider joining Friends of the Spoil Islands at http://friendsofspoilislands.org.

Last updated: November 03, 2016

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