The largest resource management project at St. Joseph Bay
Aquatic Preserve is the Florida Seagrass Recovery Project.
As a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and related
response activities, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitat
in the Florida Panhandle was adversely impacted. The Florida
Seagrass Recovery project will address boat damage to shallow
seagrass beds in the Florida Panhandle by restoring scars
located primarily in turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum)
habitats in St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve in Gulf County,
with additional potential sites in Alligator Harbor Aquatic
Preserve in Franklin County, and St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve,
in Bay County.
The project will restore SAV habitat by addressing boat
scars, which will include surveying and mapping scars in three
aquatic preserves in the Florida Panhandle. Additionally,
sediment tubes will be manufactured, filled with local fine
grain sediment, and deployed in approximately two acres of
seagrass propeller scars in St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve.
However, if approximately two acres of propeller scars are not
found to be available for this restoration project in St.
Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve after initial assessments, then
additional potential sites will be selected in one of the other
aquatic preserves to achieve the overall project goal of
restoring approximately two acres of scars.
The sediment tubes, which are made of biodegradable cotton
fabric filled with sediment, will then be placed into propeller
scars to enhance seagrass recovery by raising the scar
elevation to ambient grade with clean sediment of appropriate
grain size, thereby offering suitable habitat for seagrass
recruitment. Restoration will be facilitated by placing bird
stakes in the restoration project area. The stakes attract
birds to perch and supply natural fertilizer in the form of
feces, which is rich in phosphorus and nitrogen. Bird stakes
will be installed in water depths of five feet or less at mean
high tide. Following completion of installation, any bird
stakes remaining after two years will be removed.
Two growing seasons (approximately 18 to 24 months) after
placement of sediment tubes and bird stakes is completed, scars
that do not naturally revegetate to 25 to 50% coverage will
either be planted with seagrass species transplanted from
potential donor sites within the aquatic preserve, or planted
with purchased seagrass planting units, as funding allows.
Finally, a boater outreach and education component of the
project will install non-regulatory Shallow Seagrass Area
signage at sites where restoration takes place, update existing
signage and buoys where applicable, install educational
signage, and provide brochures about best practices for
protecting seagrass habitats at popular boat ramps in St.
Joseph Bay, Alligator Harbor, and St. Andrews Bay.