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Seagrass Restoration - Shoal and Widgeon

Thanks to generous funding from the Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf of Mexico Program, the Florida Coastal Management Program, the Garcon Point Restoration Trust Fund, the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Ocean's Initiative, the DEP seagrass restoration program has attempted to reduce seagrass degradation and to restore the seagrass beds along the Gulf Coast of the Florida Panhandle. The DEP seagrass restoration program consists of three components: salvage, laboratory tissue culture and aquaculture. The seagrass salvage program recovers seagrasses which would otherwise be lost as a result of marine construction (i.e., docks, piers) and transplants the grass to areas of similar habitat where beds are in need of restoration. Currently, we are in the pilot phase of an aquaculture operation at the DEP nursery facility utilizing shoal grass (Halodule wrightii) obtained from salvages in the local area. This operation will be expanded in the upcoming year when space and funding availble.

Another method of SAV restoration involves lab propagated seagrass. In vitro micropropagation offers a low-cost, highly efficient and non-destructive technique for propagating seagrasses at rates that are much higher than those obtained with other methods of propagation. The widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima) is propagated in test tubes, placed onto biodegradable coconut fiber mats and installed on the seafloor of protected, shallow areas of our local bay systems.

Our largest undertaking utilizing lab-grown widgeon grass is at Project GreenShores Site I in Pensacola Bay, where thick meadows of widgeon grass can be seen. In 2004, 50 square meters (50 m2) of lab-cultured widgeon grass was installed at Site 1 to aid in the establishment of the seagrass beds. To date, we have measured over 10,000 square meters (10,000 m2) of widgeon grass at this location. We also utilize naturally occurring widgeon grass which we obtain as drift material. In the case of widgeon grass, this drift material occurs as a natural propagation in the fall when plants shed their apical meristems, which then "drift" to nearby areas, settle to the sea bottom and colonize.

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Last Modified:
February 27, 2019 - 9:42am

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