Living LagoonOctober 31 2017
The Living Lagoon (http://teamorca.org/orca/living-lagoon.cfm) is an education outreach program collaborating with local schools along the Indian River Lagoon in Florida. Students are growing plants for living shorelines and surveying restoration areas before and after shoreline reconstruction. They would use OpenROV to survey the bottom from shore and document sea grass abundance.
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The Indian River Lagoon is in trouble. Once described as the most biologically diverse estuary in the United States its water quality has been deteriorating for years and wildlife is in decline - fishing, shellfish, sea grass, dolphins, bird life - by any measure you want to use - are in decline. At the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) we have been documenting many of the lagoon's problems by creating pollution maps. One of the most exciting things about these maps is not the bad things they reveal, but rather the good things. There are stark contrasts with areas of unpolluted blue right beside bright red and the thing that has become increasingly obvious is those clean areas are associated with what are called living shorelines. These are places where there is a natural gradient of plant life that serves as both a biological filter and a very effective means of shoreline stabilization. We believe that the creation of living shorelines is low hanging fruit in terms of things that can be undertaken immediately to improve the health of the lagoon.
For this reason our Living Lagoon project is restoring impaired areas of the Indian River Lagoon, while also exposing local students to the world of “living shorelines” through a newly developed school program. This is a community based effort carried out in collaboration with the Indian River Land Trust. Using plants that the students are growing and will help plant we are restoring Land Trust owned properties which they have identified as suffering from environmental degradation. We will also create before and after pollution maps which will have impacts far beyond our local community as they will provide a critical missing piece in the science of coastal habitat restoration and will hopefully provide the basis for expanding such projects into other impaired estuaries around the world. OpenROV represents a breakthrough in terms of providing an affordable and safe way for students to conduct the underwater surveys that are a critical part of the science.