Sunlight and Clear Water
The Gulf of Mexico waters along Florida’s Adventure Coast boast an estimated 250,000 acres of seagrass beds. Among the most abundant in continental North America, second in area only to the Florida Keys, these underwater meadows host thriving ecosystems. Thanks in part to the relatively shallow depth of our area of the Gulf, these aquatic plants get the high levels of sunlight they need. In fact, seagrass helps to ensure water clarity by trapping sediment in their leaves, which in turn provides food for many species.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a single acre of seagrass can produce over 10 tons of leaves per year and can support as many as 40 thousand fish and 50 million invertebrates. This high level of production and biodiversity has led to the view that seagrass communities are the marine equivalent of tropical rainforests.
Seagrass are actually flowering plants. They are more closely related to land-based lilies and gingers than true grasses.
Ocean bottom areas with no seagrass are vulnerable to intense wave action from currents and storms. Rooted seagrass helps stabilize the sea floor, much like grass on land prevents soil erosion.
As food, habitat and nursery to a rich variety of marine life such as manatees, sea turtles, many fish species and mollusks like bay scallops, seagrass meadows are vital. Agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute study, monitor and map seagrass. And because seagrass is so important for so many reasons, it is protected so – when boating – be aware and use navigational charts to avoid damaging seagrass beds