Audubon biologist Alex Blochel loads up the Pathfinder boat at the Everglades Science Center (ESC), tossing in snorkel gear and measuring equipment for a full day of field work on the water. The dawn light has just crested the shiny leaves of Florida Bay mangroves, and he’ll need all the daylight he can get to measure submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) waving beneath the surface of the water.
Aquatic vegetation is a key indicator of the salinity of Florida Bay. Plants are surveyed to assess upstream water management practices that heavily influence freshwater flows to the Bay and are changing as Everglades restoration proceeds. Additionally, sea-level rise will increase the salinity of the bay, especially if freshwater flows from upstream do not increase. The aquatic vegetation Blochel and the ESC team measure six times a year is a canary in the coal mine, forecasting future environmental conditions by responding to past water conditions.
Read the rest with Audubon Florida!