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A fyke net captures organisms as they flee from the marsh on a falling tide

What’s going on along Cedar Key’s shorelines?

Coastal change is obvious along Cedar Key’s shorelines. One of the most noticeable changes is rapid erosion along the shorelines of Daughtry Bayou. Erosion is a natural process in coastal ecosystems but becomes an issue when it threatens homes and infrastructure. The loss of beach, oyster reefs, and marshes along these populated areas leaves property and infrastructure exposed to the damaging effects of storms, among other impacts. Further, the loss of these coastal systems translates into the loss of habitat and other services, such as water filtration and nutrient storage.  So, what can be done?

time series of aerial images showing erosion in Daughtry Bayou

Time series of aerial images showing erosion in Daughtry Bayou in Cedar Key. Sources: Google Earth and the UF Aerial Photography: Florida Collection

Living shorelines

A newer but increasingly popular method of erosion control is a living shoreline. Living shorelines are natural habitats constructed along the shoreline to dampen wave energy and accumulate sediment. Living shorelines are not suitable for all sites and can be challenging to design and implement. But at suitable sites the extra effort is worth it because, in contrast to seawalls, living shorelines have many benefits:

  • cost-effective
  • ability to adapt with changing sea levels
  • increase environmental function (e.g., habitat, water quality)
  • potential to gain (accrete) land by trapping sediments
  • less repairs and maintenance over the long-term (high resilience)
  • likely to be long-lasting
range of shoreline erosion control options from gray to green

Source: NOAA Habitat Blueprint

Living shorelines in Daughtry Bayou

Thanks to the time and effort of many stakeholders (mostly Cedar Key residents) and recent funding support from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Daughtry Bayou will soon be home to two new living shorelines. The shoreline projects will occur along G Street and Airport Rd., and construction will likely begin in early 2020. Permits are still pending for these projects, so stay tuned to this blog for more updates!

In the meantime, biologists at UF/IFAS and the Nature Coast Biological Station are monitoring several aspects of these shorelines. Monitoring is an important part of any habitat restoration project, especially pre-project monitoring. Collecting data on fish, elevation, water chemistry, and other things before the projects helps us assess the extent to which the living shorelines improve the situation. So, how is monitoring done?

Fish community monitoring

a mandala of fish collected from a living shoreline

Example of fish species caught in a minnow trap. Photo: Sawyer Downey

Have you ever wondered what’s swimming around in our coastal areas? Well, the answer varies depending on the habitat type, time of year, location, and other variables. To get a handle on what’s living along the shorelines, the best approach is to sample several times a year using different methods. Even better to have a variety of sites for replication and comparison. In Daughtry Bayou, our team is sampling 16 sites with minnow traps and 6 sites with fyke nets once every two months. Minnow traps are good for capturing smaller species while fyke nets are better at catching larger ones. The sites include areas where shorelines will be restored as well as control areas that will remain unchanged. Over time, fish and invertebrate (nekton) samples from these areas will form a picture of the habitat changes that result from building a living shoreline.

A fyke net captures organisms fleeing the marsh as the tide falls

A fyke net captures organisms fleeing the marsh as the tide falls. Photo: Dr. Mark Clark

Biologist working with a minnor trap

Minnow traps being deployed by Dr. Charlie Martin. Photo: Dr. Mark Clark

4 Comments on “What’s going on along Cedar Key’s shorelines?

  1. Savannah you’ve always got such good information it was great seeing this past weekend at the living Shoreline Workshop in St Pete

  2. Thanks, Jim! Great seeing you, too. Keep up the great work with the shell collection and let me know if you want to proceed with any of those shell type tests we talked about. 🙂

  3. So fortunate to live along this shoreline and know that UF and partner agencies are working to protect it.