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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - St. Lucie Inlet, Florida

St. Lucie Inlet, Florida
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Registered: May 2018
City/Town/Province: Palm City
Posts: 1
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Florida State Parks: Protecting Our Florida Coastal Ecosystems

Florida's and the world's coastal ecosystems are crying out for help, on a local, national, and global level. There is a lack of protection for Florida coastal ecosystems. Thousands and thousands of vast, incomprehensible, and beautiful seaside underwater communities are on the brink of devastation. Ocean pollution and ruin has been a developing issue for decades and now is the time for this generation to take a stand and pursue restoration in small but impactful ways. The definition of restoration, simply stated is, the measures taken to return something back to its original state of being. Returning the coast back to its original state of being would require many hands and sparked passions in the community, and most importantly a recipe for prompt and successful endeavors. Furthermore, if change is going to be instated, then the illusions of society need to be broken down. In other words, people need to stop relying on sustainability ideas that don't get backed up and strive towards more permanent solutions because its been established that the ocean can only endure so much. There are lots of options, it's only a matter of time before people choose to take action and restore the ocean and coastal ecosystems.
2. Ocean Awareness
First and foremost, it is important for people to develop a well-rounded understanding of the issues that face the coastal ecosystems today. An awareness is the first step to making change, because it provides people a more personal reason to give their devotion. According to researchers in, Priorities for Coastal Ecosystem Science, by the Ocean Studies Board, the nine main causes of environmental issues are...
habitat modification
hydrologic and hydrodynamic disruption
exploitation of resources
toxic effects
introduction of nonindigenous species
global climate change and variability
shoreline erosion and hazardous storms
pathogens and toxins affecting human health (Ocean Studies Board, 17-18).
These factors all play a part in the exposure of the seaside to deteriorating conditions. In particular, eutrophication effects the health of the water because it is caused by runoff, like agricultural chemicals, waste residue, and fossil fuels, these excess substances result in a excessive amount of nutrients. In which case, causes a lack of oxygen and growth for any surrounding organisms living in the area.
In addition, habitat modification is exactly what its name implies: when human or natural pressures inflict sometimes irreversible harm to a domain. "Modification of shallow water habitats, including coral and other reefs, wetlands, and seagrass beds, pose perhaps the greatest threat to the biological diversity of marine (NRC, in press) and other aquatic organisms and can have significant consequences on the production of resource species that depend on these habitats for shelter or food at critical life stages" (Ocean Studies Board 21). Habitat modification can occur from plastic debris, drilling, deforestation, invasive species, and lots more.
Another major component to this sad phenomenon is hydrologic and hydrodynamic disruption. Hydrologic and hydrodynamic disruption is the change of the way water naturally flows, which may not seem like such a big deal but in reality it is because nature has a very specific way of working and by changing the flow of water through processes like deforestation or the building of dams, people are actually adjusting salinity proportions and flushing.
The list of challenges could go on and on at a much greater depth but in short, here is what the consequences of each main factor contributes to the ocean's symptom analysis. Exploitation of resource reduces the availability of prey and the amount of predators severely, otherwise significantly depleting food sources. Toxic effects range from causing behavioral concerns to non-reproductive organs in animals that live in an environment that contains heavy metals or DDT pollution. Nonindigenous species released into the wild like lionfish by people from across the globe create a loss of biodiversity. "Researchers have discovered that a single lionfish residing on a coral reef can reduce recruitment of native reef fishes by 79 percent. Because lionfish feed on prey normally consumed by snappers, groupers, and other
commercially important native species, their presence could negatively affect the well-being of valuable commercial and recreational fisheries," (NOAA Fisheries, Impacts of Invasive Lionfish). Coupled with, global climate change that increases the temperature of the Earth and the oceans. Erosion is the source of land loss and water quality.
Lastly regarding human health, people exposed to pathogens or toxins through swimming in coastal water or eating undercooked seafood can cause serious illnesses because of the extent of pollution that has been dumped into the once thriving waters. "Many of these viruses make their way into coastal marine environments through the discharge of sewage. Even treated sewage contains viral pathogens, because they are small enough to pass through filters designed to remove larger particles such as bacteria and waste. 'The discharge of viral pathogens in treated sewage is not regulated,' writes Dale Griffin and his colleagues in the scientific review "Pathogenic Human Viruses in Coastal Waters" in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews,"' (Bajak 4-5).
Generally speaking, if the ocean is healthy, then so are humans. This is why it is so vital to address these subjects and promote awareness because what is the ocean's problem now will only become our world's, our nation's, and our community's problem in time, if not already. Defending the coastal ecosystems is not something that has to be left solely to those with power, change can start with everyone. Jacques Cousteau remarked, "Water and air, the two essential fluids on which life depends, have become global garbage cans." It's time we stop and take out the trash that muddles the beauty
and awe-inspiring surface that is being buried before our eyes and feel what it's like to live with the memories of time. Help gain an awareness for our ecological jewel.
3. Community Restoration
In the area surrounding Martin County, Florida most of the environmental issues correlate with the sand and water, in particular toxic water and erosion of beaches. The issues have been a wake up call for many local residents. The West Palm Beach News Station (WPTV) reported, "Since July, waterways in Martin County have tested positive for enteric bacteria and toxic algae. The tests were taken at the Stuart Sandbar, Sandsprit Park, the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart and Leighton Park in Palm City. Enteric bacteria and the blue-green algae found in the water can make both people and animals sick" (Katie Johnson, Toxic Waters Meeting).
The toxins found in the water are thought to be a result of pollutants being drained from nearby sugarcane fields and urban farms that are being carried south through rivers. Efforts have been made to clean and get rid of the "guacamole-like"
(WPTV,Toxic Waters Meeting) alage. Ecosphere Technologies Inc. tested a new technology at Outboards Only Marina in Jensen Beach where the alage was in large quantities, dangerous, and atrocious. "We were doing two things: Disinfecting the water and increasing the oxygen levels in the body of water so that algae can't survive," says Corey McGuire, marketing director for Ecosphere Technologies. The process proved successful and has hopes to be used in other algae infested waters. In association with the beach erosion issue...Martin County has 21 miles worth of beaches, 18 of which are critically eroded, and 384,000 cubic yards of sand that has been dredged and used to
renourish a beach in a community project (Broadt, Eroded Treasure Coast Beaches). The county has been hard at work attempting to change federal law in order that sand can be taken from the Bahamas instead of locally to be sent to the Miami Dade County area who are in dire need of sand. This change would considerably benefit Martin because it would preserve the sand that we already have. A multitude of the sand lost to erosion has been as a result of the recent sweeping hurricanes. Although as stated by the TCPalm Post, "Current federal policy bars the purchase of foreign sand unless economic or environmental factors make using domestic sand impossible (Broadt 2017)." As of now, officials are continuing to fight for a change in policy in order that valuable sand can be preserved.
4. History
The causes and effects of ocean pollution and destruction are largely a part of the outcomes of development and industrialization. With the introduction of pesticides, tourism, mining of coral for construction, and removal of reefs for the implementation of homes and businesses, new threats have been imposed on the ocean over the course of human establishment. "Currently, 2.5 billion people (40% of the world's population)
live within 100 km of the coast, adding increased pressure to coastal ecosystems. Coastal development linked to human settlements, industry, aquaculture, or infrastructure can cause severe impacts on nearshore ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. Coastal development impacts may be direct (e.g., land filling, dredging, coral and sand mining for construction) or indirect (e.g., increased runoff of sediment and pollutants) (Reef Resilience Network 2018)." Further details regarding the above direct and indirect impacts are discussed above in the ocean awareness section. The world as a whole has all contributed to the sick being of the natural element of saltwater. Humans have a long history of polluting and taking from the ocean without implications for restoration that can be put into work. However, humans have the capability to develop while at the same time also mature sustainable and healthy environments. Sylvia Earle commented plainly in an interview with Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, "Our actions in just a slim period of time have so altered the nature of nature."
5. Methodology-
After people have a purpose, the next step is to take action. There are hundreds of methods people of all ages can use to restore and protect our coastal ecosystems. One technique that is prevalent in Martin County is oyster bagging. Oyster bagging is the action of recycling shells and using the oyster's natural glue to form the basis for new reefs. This practice is fairly common near the Loxahatchee river. The benefits of using this method include but are not limited to, filtering of water, habitat formation, food
supply, and they can act as an erosion blockade. Another method that is used locally is seagrass replanting. Seagrass that has been washed ashore is collected, planted, and raised in a closed environment, then once the seagrass is matured it is planted back in the ecosystem. Seagrass is important for many of the reasons oysters are, but seagrass also adds increased productivity and they contribute economic value to society by means of tourism. Lastly, invasive species such as plants or animals can be removed, helping the coastal ecosystem to get back on their feet and increase the native biodiversity. Of course, these are only a few methods that are being used to restore the coast but they all bring us one step closer to a healthier ocean.
6. Other Agencies and Groups
Other agencies and groups besides the Florida State Parks system that are working towards restoration include the Oceanographic center, Oceana, 4Ocean, Blue Voice, and lots more. In fact, the headquarters for 4Ocean reside in Boca Raton and the Oceanographic center in Stuart, Florida. Each of these non-profit organizations has one common goal in mind, to sustain, raise awareness, and preserve the jewel that mother nature has gifted us with, that is the ocean and all it's living things.
One example of how these types of organizations are going out and making change is the 4Ocean bracelets that are available for purchase on their website. 4Ocean creates bracelets made of recycled material, every time a bracelet is purchased for $20, one pound of trash and debris is removed from the ocean. The company also
hosts local beach cleanups from Boca Raton, Florida to Bali, Indonesia. Founders and surfers, Alex and Andrew stated, "In less than 2 years, 4Ocean has removed 629,942 pounds of trash from the ocean and coastlines" (4Ocean 1). That weighs almost as much as 90 elephants!
Likewise, Oceana hosts campaigns and conducts research in an effort to reduce human influence on the ocean through policy making in major coastal countries. Their offices can be found across the globe and they've already made huge progress in what they are doing. Oceana's website explicitly expresses, "Since 2001, Oceana has achieved hundreds of concrete policy victories for marine life and habitats. From stopping bottom trawling in sensitive habitat areas to protecting sea turtles from commercial fishing gear, our victories represent a new hope for the world's oceans" (Oceana, Oceana Victories). On top of that, Oceana promotes sustainable seafood recipes and merchandise to raise awareness and to fund their work.
Last but not least, Blue Voice is a organization that educates people about the ocean's dire need for help through videos. One of their focuses is saving whales and dolphins in the underwater ecosystems. Executive director, Hardy Jones, was a former news journalists when he first formed the idea for the association. He remarks, "The advent of the internet has given us a tool of unprecedented power to end some of the brutalities committed against marine mammals and the oceans" (Hardy Jones Saving Dolphins and Whales). For this reason, Hardy dedicated his time to such a pressing cause.
Overall there are hundreds of organizations working to protect the ocean and coastal ecosystems. However those above were just a few examples of agencies and organizations that can be found locally.
7. Action Research
Action research can be defined as the steps taken to answer or solve a global or local issue through the gaining of knowledge and the effort put forth through literal activity initiated by one's own self. The inquiry process can be broken down into five simple steps. The first step is to identify a problem. It's important to choose a topic that one is passionate about, something that the individual wants to see changed. Examples of current issues could be hunger, poverty, animal abuse, child neglect, and education. After the individual has selected their topic of choice, they move onto the second step, devise a plan.
In order to devise a plan you must first fully understand the topic. This means conducting research through reading books, watching educational videos, or visiting reliable websites that deal with the topic. After one fully understands the issue they should look into volunteering at a local organization or creating a event in support of solving the problem presented. Once the individual has created a plan then it's time to take action.
Taking action means implementing whatever activity or event that one devised. Gandhi, an Indian activist, expressed it perfectly, "Action expresses priorities", by taking part of a event you are showing others what matters most to you.
Thirdly, is to be sure and take time to observe. Take note of what is happening as a result of the actions and the effectiveness of the solution. This is an important step because it will guide the person initiating a solution to improve or change their approach to something that may work smoother.
And lastly, is reflection. This can be done by writing and sharing one's experience through an essay, website, poster, or video. Reflections should be shared with peers, family and friends, or the community because it raises greater awareness and motivation to enact change.
8. Rationale for Action
In this specific case, action was focused on Florida State Parks and their involvement in restoring coastal ecosystems and the ocean because water is very prevalent locally in Florida. Not to mention the world as a whole. "Presently about 40% of the world's population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast. As population density and economic activity in the coastal zone increases, pressures on coastal ecosystems increase" (UN Sea 170). Why is this an important matter? Because the ocean is largely apart of our economy and the sustainability of many life forms. If the ocean is polluted and lost, thousands upon thousands of animals will go extinct, millions will lose their jobs and food supply, and the Earth could become unstable. Gregory Stone from the World Economic Forum comments, "The oceans of the Earth can exist without us. If we humans become extinct, they won't even notice we're gone. We, however, simply cannot exist without our oceans. We need them. They are the primary life support
system on Earth, the lungs, climate regulator, and ultimate food factory - connected deeply to each of us and nearly every economic activity that makes our world go round" (Stone, Gregory 1). Florida State Parks act as a good method of encouraging people to take care of the ocean because they are accessible and educational for visitors. In Florida alone there are 175 award winning parks. Furthermore, people of all ages can safely and easily enjoy the environment with pre-paved trails, well-kept beaches, and tour guides in some places.
9. Overall Qualitative/ Quantitative Goals
The goals for this action research project were divided into qualitative and quantitative. Some qualitative goals were to gain a better understanding of the world and how dependent humans are on the ocean and also to inspire young people to step up and be the change in this next generation towards more environmentally friendly practices. This will demonstrate the urgency and importance of the situation and also advocate to the community. These qualitative goals won't be measurable right away but they will gradually be proven successful as action is taken.
On the other hand, some quantitative goals were decrease the amount of trash on the local beaches and see gradual changes in water quality. These changes would support the theory that by advocating and educating, people can cause a domino effect of restoration. On top of that, if statistics on pollution and water quality are significantly improved than people's efforts will be justified.
10. Strengths
On the positive side, Florida State Parks are already seeing the side effects of their restoration endeavors. In the action research project conducted on Boy Scout Island of the Port St. Lucie Inlet, eight trash bags were collected and properly disposed of by a unanimous visitor to the park. That just goes to show one small example that the local community is aware and moving towards restoring the local waters. In addition, Florida State Parks are improving the watershed by keeping water up on land more and allowing it to naturally sheet flow, upgrading outdated septic systems to sanitary sewer systems, and using permeable surfaces rather than the pavement. Granted that these sustainable ideas are continued, the future health of the coast is looking hopeful.
11. Weaknesses
On the negative side, there still remains the ongoing issue of toxic waters and algae. Although not specific to Boy Scout Island, blue-green algae is visible on some local waterways. Authorities are developing theories and solutions for the cleaning of these toxins but it's going to take a community effort. Furthermore, offshore drilling is becoming a controversial issue specific to martin county beaches. Drilling of the local beaches is a bad idea because it increases the risk for an oil spill, enhances global warming which can cause stronger hurricanes, and it disrupts animal habitats. However, local residents can help combat this issue by attending a event hosted by the Oceanographic Center on Saturday, May 19th, where people will hold hands for five minutes in protest of offshore drilling at Stuart Beach. Together the community can overcome the hurdles that are in the way of restoring the coast.
12. Continuations
Sustainable thinking should continue on far into the future because it is important to give back to the environment what it has given to us, the beauty of mother nature should be preserved for others to enjoy as well, and the lives and well being of the community depend on it. Thus, an entire community or group of people with a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, can make huge impacts. Small steps like picking up a few pieces of trash or purchasing a 4Ocean bracelet in support of protecting oceans are already proving beneficial. People must stand up for what they stand on.
13. Conclusions
There are many steps to the action research concept, as there are to restoration. But in short, people need to acknowledge the problem that pollution, erosion, and pathogens do, in fact, exist. Secondly, education and action need to take place. This can be through volunteering at a local organization, visiting a Florida state park, or initiating a proactive event. After these things take place, change will be evident, if not already. It's not that hard and it's a cause of great importance.
Date: May 25, 2018 Views: 3045 File size: 14.7kb, 2657.0kb : 3024 x 4032
Hours Volunteered: 24
Volunteers: 3
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 15-65
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