Seagrass Restoration Efforts Underway In St. Andrew Bay
Seven acres of seagrass will be transplanted from one area of St. Andrew Bay to another as part of a $2 million-dollar restoration project. The money comes from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Historically, the West Bay portion of St. Andrew Bay had nearly 4,000 acres of seagrass but lost 50% of the plant due to man-made impacts from 1953 to 1992. Since then, the area has recovered 40% of its seagrasses, leaving 10% or roughly 500 acres barren.
“The idea is we are actually going out, and we’re planting seagrass in a patchy structure. If you can imagine a chessboard, looking at something like a chessboard or checkerboard, we’re actually putting in plots of seagrass rosettes, groups of small plants over a broad area. It’s not covered with seagrass like a carpet,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Kent Smith says. His organization is overseeing the project.
Smith says once seagrass takes root, the plant will grow to fill in the gaps of the checkerboard-like pattern. Afterward, he hopes the seagrass will expand outside the project area. As for the parts of West Bay where workers will remove seagrass, Smith says they will do it in a way that mitigates any potential impacts.
“By taking small amounts spread out over a large area, you’re able to do that without damaging the beds. But your net advantage is that those seagrasses are already adapted to the conditions into which you’re transplanting them,” Smith says.
The historic loss of seagrass has affected the animals who depend on the grass as a food source and habitat.
“It would be like saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to take away half of the vegetables at your grocery store,’ and that would support essentially half of the people that could actually get the foodstuff that they would need at that location,” Smith says.
Workers will begin transplanting seagrass next week.