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Seagrass  Restoration

Thanks to generous funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program, the Florida Coastal Management Program, the Garcon Point Restoration Trust Fund, the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Ocean’s Initiative, the FDEP seagrass restoration program attempts to reduce seagrass degradation and to restore the seagrass beds along the Gulf Coast of the Florida panhandle.  Currently, the FDEP seagrass restoration program consists of three components: salvage, laboratory tissue culture and aquaculture. The seagrass salvage program recovers seagrasses which would otherwise be lost as a result of marine construction (i.e. docks, piers) and transplants the grass to areas of similar habitat where beds are in need of restoration. Currently, we are in the pilot phase of an aquaculture operation at the FDEP nursery facility utilizing Halodule wrightii (shoal grass) obtained from salvages in the local area.

Salvages seagrass section ready for plantingTransect of seagrass study area

Another method of SAV restoration involves lab propagated seagrass.  In vitro micropropagation offers a low cost, highly efficient, and non-destructive technique for propagating seagrasses at rates that are much higher than those obtained with other methods of propagation.  The seagrass, Ruppia maritima, is propagated in test tubes, placed onto biodegradable coconut fiber mats and installed on the seafloor of protected, shallow areas of our local Bay systems.

Ruppia maritima in nutrient enriched test tubes

Our largest undertaking utilizing lab-grown R. maritima is at Project GreenShores Site I in Pensacola Bay, where thick meadows of R. maritima can be seen. In 2004, fifty square meters (50 m2) of lab cultured R. maritima was installed at Site 1 to aid in the establishment of the seagrass beds. To date, we have measured over ten thousand square meters (10000 m2) of R. maritima at this location. We also utilize naturally occurring R. maritima which we obtain as drift material. In the case of R. maritima, this drift material occurs as a natural propagation in the fall when plants shed their apical meristems, which then "drift" to nearby areas, settle to the sea bottom and colonize. Utilizing this drift material from nearby Hawkshaw Lagoon, we planted thirty-five square meters (35m2) to date at Project GreenShores Site 2. Future restoration endeavors utilizing lab grown and drift obtained R. maritima include additional plantings at Project GreenShores Site 2 as well as other protected sites within the Pensacola Bay system in conjunction with our oyster reef restoration program.

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Last updated: January 23, 2013

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