HABITAT

habitat-replace-turtlesA Healthy Habitat Depends on Healthy Waterways

Residents and visitors who get off the boat or out of the kayak, those who walk along the shore or seawall can see the difference in water quality from one part of Kings Bay and Crystal River to the other. The water is so clear in some places that you can see all the way to the bottom. In others, lyngbya has choked out native plant (and aquatic life) leaving the water murky and depleted of oxygen—the vital baseline for a healthy aquatic system.

Why is there such a difference from place to place? How did we get to where we are and how do we find our way back? The short answer is: together.

In the 1960s, extensive dredge-and-fill activities altered much of Kings Bay and portions of the Crystal River shorelines. By changing the landscape to make a place for our homes and businesses, we changed the ecosystem.

Since then, progress has been made to restore Kings Bay, creating regulations that protect waterways and building public understanding about their importance. Together, and with the help of the Florida Legislature, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, we’re changing it back.

Here’s how the different parts of the Kings Bay habitat work together to make it a beautiful place to live, work and play:

habitat-replace-eelgrassAquatic Vegetation

Seagrass and aquatic vegetation act as a natural filter for runoff and other pollutants that end up in our waterways. Our waterways are threatened when native vegetation is prevented from growing by harmful algae.

Eelgrass, once abundant in Kings Bay, is a native aquatic plant critical to sustaining quality habitat. Eelgrass provides food and shelter for fish and wildlife, and helps improve water quality by filtering dangerous runoff, nutrients, pollution, and other particles harmful to the environment. It also stabilizes sediments, reducing turbidity in the waterways.
Lyngbya is an algae that grows quickly and has taken over much of Kings Bay. Once lyngbya is established, it is nearly impossible for eelgrass to reestablish on its own.

The volunteers who started Save Crystal River have worked hard to develop financial and other support to physically remove lyngbya and muck from Kings Bay. Removing the muck is necessary for the re-introduction of beneficial grasses like hardy ‘Rock Star’ eelgrass. Once re-established, the eelgrass will again provide habitat and food while improving water quality in Kings Bay.

Areas where eelgrass has been re-established have seen an increase in the number of fish species including Atlantic needlefish, bowfin, largemouth bass, bluegill, tidewater mojarra, bluefin killifish, rainwater killifish, striped mullet, white mullet, Seminole killifish, and gray snapper.
That’s great news and it helps create enthusiastic volunteers. If you live on the water in Kings Bay or Crystal River and would like to assist with our efforts to grow eelgrass, contact us today.

habitabt-img1Shorelines

Seawalls are often used to stabilize shorelines, but they reduce the shoreline’s ability to carry out natural processes and can increase the rate of erosion. In contrast, a living shoreline stabilizes shorelines and provides valuable habitat for fish and wildlife. It mimics a natural habitat and uses native vegetation and fill materials such as limestone rock and sand to stabilize sediment and act as a natural seawall.

Aquatic plants such as needle rush, coastal spikerush, lance leaf arrowhead, eelgrass, and bakers cord grass help hold soil in place to slow erosion, filter pollution, and add habitat for fish and wildlife. Restored shoreline will benefit the Crystal River/Kings Bay spring system by improving water quality by reducing nutrients entering Kings Bay.

The work of a multitude of partners have helped make Kings Bay cleaner than it was 10 years ago, but the water quality and habitat depended on by fish, wildlife and people is under constant threat. Click here  to discover ways you can help reduce the impact you have on our area waterways.