On September 19th, 2017, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Stock Enhancement Research Facility (SERF) donated 1,000 plugs of smooth cord grass to kick off Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology’s (GCA) marsh nursery project. This donation marked the 20th anniversary of SERF’s first marsh grass donation and grasses raised in this nursery will be used in future restoration projects throughout Florida’s Adventure Coast.
Once the donation arrived at GCA, Shawn Walker’s 7th grade science class jumped to work transplanting the grasses into their new nursery. Despite the hot September sun, the students eagerly took turns separating plugs, creating the right consistency of mud, and planting the grasses in trays. In just two days, Mr. Walker’s class had their new nursery up and running.
Prior to school starting, Florida Sea Grant, UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County, Hernando County Master Gardeners, and volunteers constructed the 16’ x 16’ marsh nursery on GCA’s property in just one day. Additional support and funding for this project was provided by Hernando Environmental Land Protectors, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection Coastal Partnership Initiative, and the Mermaid Chase Paddling Race.
Our Sea Grant Agent, Brittany Hall-Scharf, and Financial and Consumer Sciences Agent, Scott Taylor, will be working closely with Mr. Walker to incorporate activities that will introduce the students to the importance of their community’s coastal ecosystems. The students will also learn basic water quality skills by monitoring while caring for the nursery. At the end of the school year, a field trip to the coast will be arranged for the students to then plant.
The smooth cordgrass is a salt marsh grass that is found here in our coastal estuaries. They are not completely submerged like seagrasses; these salt-tolerant plants are found along the coast and flooded and drained by saltwater brought in by the tides.
Salt-tolerant plants such as smooth cordgrass, marsh-hay and black rush cover many coastal acres of northern Florida. These plants do not grow together in the same area but instead are divided into distinct zones based on their salt tolerance. The plants that have the higher salt-tolerance, such as the smooth cordgrass, will be found in the low marsh area that is often flooded with salty water. Plants with lower tolerance to salt, such as the black rush, will dominate the high marsh zone that is rarely flooded with saltwater.
Salt marshes provide us with many ecosystem service that are important: they filter nutrients from the water, stabilize shorelines by dissipating wave energy and preventing erosion, reduce flooding by absorbing rainwater, and provide habitat for many marine and terrestrial species.
This project is a collaboration among University of Florida, Hernando County, and the Department of Environmental Protection Coastal Partnership Initiative. To learn more about this project and additional partners, visit: https://www.flseagrant.org/news/2017/11/building-living-shoreline-centipede-bay/
Additional footage can be found at: https://youtu.be/hkx9yJuCBH4