Clams help remove debris from the waters and mitigate pollution and other concerns impacting our waterways on the Gulf Coast. How does that help seagrass? Why does seagrass matter? Both of these questions are great for the newcomer to our cause as the connection between clams and seagrass might not immediately be understood.
There are seven species of seagrass native to Florida waters. Seagrass is a critical nutrient and food source for many of the animals of our great state, including manage, green sea turtles, and aquatic birds, to name a few. Additionally, seagrass produces oxygen and is a natural filtration system to the water. They can help control erosion by trapping debris, sediment, and soil in their roots. One other little-known fact is that seagrass can minimize the effects of storms on water ecosystems by adding as a buffer to absorb the energy of the waves during this tumultuous time.
Here is a brief tutorial of the seven seagrass species in Florida:
- Turtle Grass/Thalassia testudinum – most common, the name is in reference to green sea turtles that graze on large meadows of this grass.
- Manatee Grass/Syringodium filiforme – second most common seagrass in Florida estuaries, a favorite food of manatees
- Shoal Grass/Halodule wrightii – colonize in areas too harsh for turtle/manatee grass, forms dense growths in high salinity water
- Johnson’s Seagrass/Halophila johnsonii – considered a threatened species due to limited distribution, first considered a separate specifies in the Indian River Lagoon in 1980
- Paddle Grass/Halophila decipiens – looks a lot like Johnson’s seagrass but has a distinguishing serrated leaf margin and paddle-shaped blades, forms in shallow waters
- Star Grass/Halophila engelmanni – grow on sandy or muddy waterway bottoms
- Widgeon Grass/Ruppia maritima – not a true seagrass as it grows in both fresh and brackish waters and not full-strength seawater, able to withstand harsh daylight and some drought conditions
Seagrass needs are pretty simple on the surface, clean water and sunlight. Therein lies the rub as red tide, pollution, and other factors are causing those two simple needs to be more difficult for seagrass beds to obtain. Pollution in several forms being introduced to the waters cause algae blooms blocking sunlight and clean water from seagrass meadows.
A Tough Cause and Effect
As you can now see, clams and seagrass actually have a great handshake approach to helping each other. Introduce clams that filter negative things like debris, red tide, and other pollutants to the waterways, thus leading the way for cleaner water. Cleaner water leads to more seagrass growth that helps protect the waterways from erosion and other negative impacts. Finally, healthier seagrass meadows also allow for the continuation of animal life and benefit tourism and many other industries here on the Gulf Coast. Who knew that seagrass could have such a big impact?
As you can see, the cause of All Clams on Deck to better clams distribution in the estuaries will have a direct cause and effect on healthier seagrass beds. Seagrass, by extension, breeds cleaner water and economic growth in tourism and other water-specific industries. Join our newsletter to stay abreast of all the amazing things All Clams on Deck will be undertaking in the coming months. Lend support via garnering attention, writing your stories, and letters of support for lobbying efforts underway. Let’s mitigate the declining clams populations and help stop the decline of these critical waterways today.
Photos courtesy of dep.state.fl.us