Sea turtles benefit from lagoon friendly yards
By Aubry Forsyth
Sea turtles inhabit many areas along the Florida coast, and the Indian River Lagoon is one of those places. The 156 miles of the Indian River Lagoon, or IRL, include three bodies of water: the Banana River, the Indian River, and the Mosquito Lagoon. The IRL provides habitat to more than 2,100 plant species and 2,200 animal species. Several distinct habitats exist in the IRL and contribute to its extremely high biodiversity; the lagoon has seagrass meadows, saltmarshes, and mangrove forests, along with many other important habitats.
The Indian River Lagoon is a key area for sea turtles to live and grow. When sea turtles hatch on the Florida coast, they head toward the Atlantic Ocean and follow the Gulf Stream to the Sargasso Sea. Hatchlings float on the sargassum seaweed beds until they become juveniles. Juvenile loggerhead and green sea turtles come back to the coast to forage in the lagoon where they spend a large portion of their lives.
The Indian River Lagoon is an important area for both humans and animals; however, humans are destroying the lagoon in many different ways. Overdevelopment, fertilizer and stormwater runoff, and grass clippings all contribute to the loss of biodiversity in the lagoon.
One of the main reasons for habitat loss in the lagoon is overdevelopment along the shores, which sometimes requires removal of important habitats like mangrove forests.
Stormwater runoff is also a major problem for our lagoon. The runoff flows from yards and into drains where the water then flows into canals and the IRL. The runoff contains fertilizer, grass clippings, and other pollutants that make their way to the lagoon. Grass clippings from the yard may seem harmless, but they absorb fertilizer and pesticides that are applied to the lawn. When the clippings end up in the lagoon, they release these chemicals.
Fertilizers are one of the largest contributors of nitrogen in the Indian River Lagoon. Nitrogen is a significant problem for the IRL as it is not only a pollutant, but it causes eutrophication and fuels algal blooms. These algal blooms can have complications for both humans and animals in the lagoon. Algae blooms often cause widespread fish kills and can cause respiratory illnesses in humans.
To help save the Indian River Lagoon, we can do many things. In the state of Florida, most municipalities have a fertilizer ban that residents must follow. This ban lasts during the rainy season from June 1 through September 30 for phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers. The ban was enacted to reduce the amount of fertilizer that enters the IRL mainly through stormwater runoff.
To learn more about the fertilizer ban and the specific rules and requirements for your location visit this website: https://befloridiannow.org/fertilizer-ordinances/.
To learn more ways to create a lagoon-friendly lawn, please visit Keep Brevard Beautiful’s Lagoon Friendly Lawns program.