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Researchers plant eelgrass for Earth Day

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:20 PM EDT
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CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (WCJB) - Different lakes and springs in north central Florida are getting a habitat boost this week in honor of Earth Day.

Thousands of eelgrass plants grown at the Duke Energy Mariculture Center in Crystal River are being planted at three different lakes.

“When you’re doing a restoration project, one of your main questions you’re trying to answer is what delivery method is going to be best suited for the lake that you’re working with,” Manager of the Duke Energy Mariculture Center, Eric Latimer said.

On Thursday we saw two different delivery methods. The first was a fully grown potted plant, and the other, they call a ‘burrito’.

The plant is wrapped in burlap, with sediment, and fertilizer, hence the name burrito.

“It’s something that we actually came up with here at Duke Energy. It’s called a burrito, and it allows the plant the settle to the bottom and start rooting through burlap into the soil tat you’re trying to establish on,” Latimer said.

The UF IFAS team TV20 met with will be planting two acres worth of eelgrass, which is a little more than 10,000 plants, Assistant Professor Laura Reynolds said.

“Submerged aquatic vegetation performs a lot of important functions. It helps clean the water, it reduces the nutrients, it holds the sediment in place, it acts as habitat and food for fish and vertebrates and even manatees,” Reynolds said.

This has been a three year project for reynolds and her team, with this being the final excursion for the project.

“This is the sixth acre that we’ve planted and it is our final for this project,” she added.

And earlier in the week, partnering with the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Forest Service, an additional 5,000 plants were delivered to be sowed in the shallow areas of Lake George and Silver Glen Springs in Marion County.

Duke Energy officials said the reason for the initiative in Marion County is to repair some of the aquatic pants that were wiped out from hurricanes Matthew and Irma.

The project is being funded by the FWC, and donations eelgrass donations and technical assistance from Duke Energy via the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.

Related story: University of Florida researchers track snook migration pattern

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