National Estuaries Day Sept 24, 2011
|Lake Worth Lagoon|
What is an estuary?
An estuary is a place where freshwater rivers, streams, and canals meet and mix with salty ocean water. This mix of fresh and salt water creates the brackish water unique to coastal estuaries and makes them among the most productive ecosystems in the world.
Plants , such as this cord grass (Spartina spp), growing
at the water’s edge calm the wave action to provide important
habitat. (This is a photo from a north Florida estuary.)
Why are estuaries important?
More than 70 percent of Florida's recreationally and commercially important fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish spend part of their lives in estuaries, usually when they are young. Many of these species migrate off shore to spawn or breed. The eggs develop into larvae (immature forms) that are transported into estuaries by tides and currents. The shallow water, salt marshes, seagrasses, and mangrove roots provide excellent hiding places from larger, open-water species. Some species grow in estuaries for a short time; others remain there for life. Snook, trout, mullet, jack, grouper, redfish, silver perch, spot, catfish, sheepshead, spiny lobster, shrimp, crabs, oysters, and clams are examples of the diverse marine animals dependent upon healthy estuaries. Estuaries also provide breeding and nesting areas, or rookeries, for many coastal birds, including several endangered species, such as brown pelicans.
Lake Worth Lagoon
Lake Worth Lagoon is the largest estuary in Palm Beach County. The lagoon is about 20 miles long and a half-mile wide and stretches from the Village of North Palm Beach at its northern end to the Town of Ocean Ridge and the City of Boynton Beach at its southern end. It is separated and protected from the Atlantic Ocean by two barrier islands, Singer Island and Palm Beach Island. It has two permanent, man-made inlets, Lake Worth Inlet and South Lake Worth Inlet that connect the lagoon to the ocean.
Lake Worth Lagoon and other Florida estuaries are extremely important natural resources. Cities are built along its shores. Its waters are used for recreation and commerce. The fish and wildlife that make Florida unique depend upon estuaries for survival. As long as nutrient-rich freshwater flows and tides interact without too much human interference, estuaries remain productive. But some human activities over the past 100 years have hurt Lake Worth Lagoon. Less food and shelter is available for fish and wildlife. Water running off the land can carry pollutants into the lagoon. At times the quality of the water is poor and murky.
Many partners who care about the lagoon are working to protect, preserve and enhance the lagoon. They are planting mangroves for wildlife and cleaning up trash and debris from its waters and shoreline. Scientists are monitoring manatees, sea turtles, and seagrass. The lagoon is making a comeback from its earlier years, but it is still a body of water that needs continued protection and restoration. To learn more about this local treasure and what you can do to help save Lake Worth Lagoon, go to www.LWLI.org.
(1) www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/estuaries.htm. Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection website.
(2) “Lake Worth Lagoon: Discover a Local Treasure Newspaper in Education Project.” Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners.
(3) "Snook Island Project in Lake Woth is Taking Shape" Channel 5 News WPTV
This post provided by an anonymous FNPS member.
Here are some FNPS Blog posts on similar topics"
Shoreline Habitat in the Intracoastal Waterway
We All Live in a Watershed!
Florida's Marvelous Mangroves