ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — The St. Johns Riverkeeper is launching a multi-day expedition to investigate the lost grasses of the St. Johns River. The mission is to raise awareness about the fragile state of the river and demonstrate the need for urgent action.
Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) are an essential indicator of river health and are vital to the continuation of a healthy river ecosystem.
SAVs are sources of refuge, oxygen, habitat and food for many aquatic species including the West Indian Manatee.
Yet, scientists have concluded that most SAVs have disappeared in the lower St. Johns River. Estimates put the loss as high as 99 percent.
SAVs do periodically decline as a result of droughts or hurricanes, but the grasses typically begin to bounce back within a few years. However, this time is different. The grasses in the St. Johns have not returned since Hurricane Irma. The question is why?
What is preventing the regrowth of the SAV?
Government environment agencies have offered several possible reasons, but consensus has not been reached and more needs to be done.
As a result, St. Johns Riverkeeper is launching a multi-day expedition to investigate the case of the lost grasses.
The team will spend several days on the water monitoring the most threatened habitat of the St. Johns River. They will patrol an 80-mile stretch of the river between Doctors lake and Lake George in search of remaining SAV beds.
The hope is to answer questions on the massive decline of SAVs and to find solutions to restore the vital habitat.
The Riverkeeper team will visit the following:
- Tues., May 16: Clay County, St. Johns County
- Wed., May 17: Putnam County - Palatka
- Thur., May 18: Putnam County - San Mateo, Satsuma, Crescent Lake
- Frid., May 19: Putnam County - Welaka, Lake George
The team will measure water quality by sampling the common stressors of SAVs. This includes algal blooms, pH level, turbidity and salinity.
[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]
Along with the Riverkeeper team, volunteers will include homeowners, anglers, scientists and community leaders to help collect observational intel and data.
St. Johns Riverkeeper, Inc. is a member-supported, nonprofit advocacy organization for the St. Johns River and its watershed. Their mission is to defend the St. Johns and advocate for its protection. Visit www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org for more information.