Massive Seagrass Die-Off of 40,000 Acres Uncovered by the National Park Service last Year is Bad News for Manatees and Everglades National Park (Photo Courtesy: NOAA)
Greetings! Right now there is a massive die-off of seagrass taking place within the Everglades National Park. That sure isn’t good news for all of my manatee pals including me! Why is this occurring?
According to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the culprits for this massive die-off are many. Sally explains, “For the past 100 years, increasing development in Florida has disrupted the balance of the Everglades through the construction of homes, industry and roadways. In 1928, Floridians built a highway called the Tamiami Trail connecting Miami with Tampa and cut directly through the Everglades.”
Jewell also said, “We stopped the flow of the river of grass from the Everglades headwaters down to Florida Bay. That’s had a lot of consequences that we really are understanding now. It’s kind of embarrassing that we’ve allowed this to happen.”
Wow, clearly one can see how this strongly affects the ecosystem in Everglades National Park. Additionally, the sea levels are now rising and scientists blame this unfortunate circumstance on the effects of climate change. The rise in sea levels is causing “increased salinity in the water,” which is another factor in the rapid loss of seagrass. Add all of this up, along with the drought in recent years and you have a “perfect storm threatening one of our nation’s most prized natural wonders.”
Plants currently being pulled from the shallow water “were brown and appeared dead – nothing like the lush, green seagrass that has grown in the same area for years. This is what we get when we don’t take care of Florida Bay,” Jewell said. It is the Everglades National Park, which is home to the bay jetting out from the southern tip of Florida’s peninsula.
Research scientists from the National Park Service discovered this massive 40,000-acre section of seagrass die-off over this last year. It is resulting in a fast decline, “putting animal and plant life in jeopardy, and the future of the region’s multi-million-dollar fishing and recreational industry at risk.”
Work is now underway to restore the flow of freshwater into the Everglades. Part of the restoration includes raising road sections of the Tamiami Trail, which will allow water to flow again.
In 2013, the National Park Service completed a 1 mile-long stretch of the Tamiami Trail, and they have just begun a new project to raise another 2.5 miles of the highway. This project is funded in part by the US Department of Transportation Federal Lands Highway Program and Florida’s Department of Transportation. The project construction should be completed by 2020.
The Interior Department said the project is “one of the largest conservation projects ever undertaken” by the National Park Service. And Sally Jewell said, “We now understand how important that river of grass was. It’s about our natural heritage; it’s about our national heritage.”
If you see any sick or injured manatees, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.
Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Kobee Manatee