Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

November 2015 Conservation Notes

Sh.O.R.E. -  Marine Science and the Indian River Lagoon

The day-long Sh.O.R.E.  (“Sharing Our Research with Everyone on the Indian River Lagoon”) event on November 6th at the News-Journal Center in Daytona Beach was informative and enlightening.   The 33 presentations and posters from state and federal scientists and program administrators, and students from several Florida colleges, reviewed many categories of scientific research and perspectives on the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). The IRL is the coastal estuary system that runs from Jupiter, FL northward to Ponce Inlet, and includes the Indian and Banana Rivers and Mosquito Lagoon.  This system is considered to be the most biologically diverse estuary in all of North America.  Recreational and fisheries activities in the IRL generate $4 billion year for the Florida economy.  In addition, 50% of the commercial fish harvest on the Florida East Coast comes from the IRL. 

The 1987 Clean Water Act (CWA) Amendments established the National Estuary Program (NEP) as a “place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance.”  In 1990 the IRL was designated by the EPA as an “estuary of national significance” thus allowing the opening of many grant resources for studying and managing the IRL. 

The diverse resource management and environmental issues and recovery and remediation activities associated with the Indian River Lagoon are defined in the EPA-mandated Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP).   The CCMP is a long-term planning and activity approach to water quality, habitat, and living resources issues in the estuary. The latest version (2008) of the CCMP for the IRL is published at:

In support of the mission to comprehend the complex eco-systems and review and protect the resources of the IRL, research into the life-cycles of the many animals and plants in this estuary has been on-going for several decades.  The public  Sh.O.R.E.  forum, overseen by Daytona State College, showcased the science and findings of several projects.  Many of the scientific studies were based on field surveys and collection, and on satellite and GIS data, and were completed and presented by university students, professors and personnel from state and federal agencies. 

Projects presented through the Sh.O.R.E. forum included :
    •    Testing whether Crassostrea virginica (aka the Eastern Oyster)  grows better on artificial mats made of plastic or concrete (they prefer concrete)
    •    Surveying the relationship between local conditions and the densities of sea grasses
    •    An ideal environment is clear water from 0.4 to 0.8 meters deep
    •    turbidity from phytoplankton “blooms” greatly reduce seagrass density
    •    recovery of the density of damaged sea- grasses can take several years 
    •    a study of the effects of the Cetacean mobillivirus on the health of dolphins in the IRL
    •    Dolphin mortality is still a problem but dolphin deaths in the IRL are down
    •    Some immunity may have been conferred during a Cetacean mobillivirus outbreak in the IRL and Atlantic about 30 years ago
    •    Exploring the origin and causes of the reefs of dead oysters frequently seen along shorelines in the IRL
-Wave action from passing boats gradually loosens the shallower-bedded oysters and moves them above the high tide line.

The scientific depth and scope of the projects presented at Sh.O.R.E. was very impressive.  Some subjects were explored thoroughly and many questions answered (e.g. the wide-ranging and deleterious of effects of phyto-plankton blooms) but other projects pointed to important areas of scientific inquiry that are just now being explored (e.g. the nature and characterization of man-made marine acoustic effects in the IRL) and require much more research before the effects on the eco-systems of the IRL can be understood. 

The complex nature of the living systems of this familiar estuarine environment was much in evidence at this public symposium and science showcase.  What is known today about the lives of the Eastern oyster and the black dolphin and the sea grasses of the Indian River Lagoon is perhaps only a fraction of what may yet be known scientifically.  But what is known today is that most of the negative effects on living systems in this estuary are a result of human activity.  However, science-based information can define policies and long-term projects that restore living systems damaged by human activities.  In our own “backyard” the $48 million/ 20-year restoration of Rose Bay (“Disaster to Legacy” as FSU environmental engineering student Quinn Zacharias titled his presentation) shows that ecological restoration results in a common good, restoring balance and diversity to living systems, improving the lives of all, human and marine dweller alike.