Satellite Beach, Florida – Lawn maintenance can be hard work.
Try doing it underwater.
It may not seem like it at first glance, but in a lake on the east coast of Florida, underwater grass is in the process of being manufactured – along with seaweed.
It’s beautiful. It’s very beautiful,” said Nicholas Sanzon, the State Department’s environmental program coordinator. Satellite Beach City, Florida. “We’re not trying to fix everything with this. We’re trying to figure out what works.”
Typically, the 156-mile-long Indian River Lagoon is home to acres upon acres of seagrass. However, large portions of them have died, which creates an even bigger problem for the organisms that depend on them.
“There was a massive mortality of manatees,” said Dennis Hanesack, a research professor at the university. Harper Branch Institution of Oceanography at Florida Atlantic University. “It’s very clear that it’s because of hunger. The main food of manatees is seaweed.”
Last year, more than 1,000 manatees died along Florida waters – a record number.
They are starving because pollution runoff from farms, fertilizer from people’s yards, among other things, end up in the water. This runoff causes the algae to bloom more intensely, which prevents sunlight from reaching the seaweed, killing it.
“Unfortunately, everything has kind of come to a head in the last couple of years. But it’s been something in the pipeline for a long time,” Hanisak said.
In the short term, manatee rescue programs try to feed the creatures lettuce to help them survive, but this is not a long-term solution.
That’s where FAU’s Hanesak comes in: In a series of tanks, he and his team grow seaweed on the university’s campus.
Using refrigerants, they collect the seaweed and take it to plant in the water, with the help of volunteers like registered nurse Susan Millett.
She said, “I took care of new mothers and new children and worked in a nursery. Seaweed is the nursery for all aquatic life.” What we have to do for our future.”
Using oyster shells, they created a dividing line in the lake, between a seagrass nursery and open water, where weeds were once plentiful. If successful, this project can be applied in other places.
“Australia is restoring seaweed,” Sanzon said. “The Chesapeake Bay Area has really done a fantastic job recovering oysters and we’ve learned from them.”
Through Sanzone’s work, the City of Satellite Beach has partnered with FAU in the program.
“Because clams and oysters filter the water, that helps water quality, allowing the seaweed to see better, so it can grow with more sunlight,” he said.
One potential benefit could eventually help save manatees and restore balance to the waters we all share.
“We live now and as a 100-year-old race, we act out in our time frames, in our windows,” Sanzon said. “We want to make sure he’s healthy and happy while we live here.”