The 2023 Watershed Summit held June 21-22 at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center in Punta Gorda shown above featured a number of experienced speakers pointing to the increasing concerns about the effect of excess nutrients in stormwater on the quality of our waterways and the alarming impact on seagrass.

The two-day program was sponsored by the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership to provide an opportunity for the general public to interact with natural resource professionals to discuss available research, restoration and environmental issues in Central and Southwest Florida. Highlights of the summit include:

The Effects of Seagrass Loss in Tidal Creeks in Southwest Florida by Kelly Chase (Kelly.Chase@MyFWC.com) with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Kelly pointed out that an eight-year dataset showed a change in fish assemblages that coincided with algal blooms and sea grass loss in tidal creeks on the Cape Haze peninsula. Tidal creeks may be especially prone because of their position in the landscape which exposes them to the brunt of the effects of coastal development.

Coupling Seagrass Loss, Macroalgal Growth & Water Quality in Charlotte Harbor by Dr. Chris Anastasiou (Chris.Anastasiou@swfwmd.state.fl.us), Chief Scientist with Southwest Florida Water Management District

Chris related that from 1988 to 2018 seagrass coverage in Charlotte Harbor remained relatively stable between 17,000 and 20,000 acres. In 2020, seagrass coverage dropped to its lowest level in 32 years as measured by mapping by SWFWMD. The east side of the harbor was particularly hard hit losing 1,760 acres or half of is seagrass. Concurrent with the seagrass loss was an explosion of drift and attached benthic macroalgae. This sudden shift from seagrass to macroalgae occurred in the wake of a protracted red tide event that lasted 15 months from October 2017 to January 2019.

Quality Trends in the Peace River Basin and Estuary by Dr. Miles Medina (Miles.Medina@ufl.edu) Research Scientist, University of Florida Center for Coastal Solutions

Miles reported that nitrogen concentrations in the estuary’s water column have been elevated and trending upward over the past ten years and nitrogen hot spots span the full basin from the headwaters to the estuary. Phosphorus concentrations have been below the numerical criterion over the same period, but phosphorus hot spots span the middle to the upper basin. In addition, preliminary causal results reveal a potential link between Charlotte Harbor red tide blooms and nitrogen loads from the Peace River basin. This suggests that nutrient loads from the Peace River have broad systematic effects throughout Charlotte Harbor.

Contact these water quality professionals directly to learn more about their important work. The foregoing reports continue to demonstrate the importance of START’s work with stormwater ponds to help reduce the flow of excess nutrients into our coastal waterways.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *