Don’t let anyone try to convince you there is one magic bullet that will fix the Indian River Lagoon. There’s not. And don’t let anyone tell you there is a quick-fix. There’s not. And don’t let anyone tell you its hopeless. Its not. And don’t let anyone tell you there’s just one problem, or one problem is more important than another. Its not that easy. But you can be certain that this is something we can fix as long as we make it a priority.
The problems affecting the Indian River Lagoon are numerous, but at the core its about freshwater flows into the lagoon and whats in them. This is a short primer on the main factors to get you up to speed. Check out the Information Links and Blog for more detailed discussions.
Freshwater flows – changes to freshwater flows into coastal waters cause major negative changes in the ecology of these waters. For example, most organisms that live in water require a specific salinity (a measure of the salt content in water – freshwater salinity = 0, ocean salinity = 35, salinity in an estuary is typically somewhere in between, say 20) to survive. Lets take seagrass as an example. If the salinity is 0 for more than a couple of weeks, the seagrass will die. Same for oysters. Same for a lot of the small animals that live in seagrass beds and oyster bars – the stuff that gamefish eat.
So when mangrove creeks are filled in or diverted, and these many creeks are replaced by a few canals that dump large amounts of freshwater into the lagoon, the lagoon and everything that lives in it suffer.
Nutrients – too many nutrients can kill an estuary like the Indian River Lagoon. Nutrients come from many sources, including fertilizers on lawns and agricultural fields that drain during rains, septic systems, and sewage treatment plants that fail or overflow. Together, these extra nutrients cause plankton (algae) blooms that shade the sunlight from seagrass, killing the seagrass, and overwhelming oysters and other organisms that are supposed to filter the water. Then when the plankton dies and sinks to the bottom, the process of decay consumes all of the oxygen in the water, causing fish kills.
Herbicide and Pesticide Residues – the leftovers, or breakdown products, of a lot of the herbicides and pesticides that are applied to urban, suburban, and agricultural lands are harmful to organisms that live in the Indian River Lagoon. Combined, the changes in salinity from changes in freshwater flows, the increase in nutrients, and the accumulation of pesticide and herbicide residues make it very difficult for the Indian River Lagoon to function properly. Fixing these problems is essential if the Indian River Lagoon is ever to be healthy again