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Mixed grades for ailing Indian River Lagoon in new report card

The vast majority of manatee deaths have been in the Indian River Lagoon, a biologically diverse east coast estuary that has been plagued with water quality problems and widespread seagrass losses. Photo courtesy the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The Indian River Lagoon is getting mixed grades in a new report card measuring the ecological condition of one of the most biodiverse estuaries on the continent. 

The report card shows that while water quality is improving, widespread seagrass losses are ongoing. 

The annual report card from the Marine Resources Council, an advocacy group, is based on data collected by the water management districts in 2020, the most recent available. 

Leesa Souto of the Marine Resources Council says no one knows why the seagrasses are not returning, but that one hypothesis focuses on herbicides that prevent photosynthesis. 

“So it’s going to block the photosynthesis of seagrass, which need sunlight to photosynthesize. It’s going to block their photosynthesis process as well as it does the targeted plants that they’re trying to kill on the land.” 

The 156-mile Indian River Lagoon spans six counties on Florida’s east coast. Last year a record 11-hundred manatees died in Florida, and the majority of the deaths were in the lagoon. 

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s ... Read Full Bio »