Scoring the lagoon’s health was done by comparing actual water quality and sea grass measurements with the regulatory target in each region. For more information on how these scores were calculated click here.
Where an asterisk [*] appears in seagrass tables, no data were available because seagrass don’t natural grow in the northern Mosquito Lagoon. Where an asterisk [*] appears in the water quality parameter table, water quality samples are no longer being collected in the South IRL South.
The first IRL Health Assessment in 2018 provided a glimpse of how this complex system has changed over time and opens up a Pandora’s box of possibilities for future investigation. As annual assessments continue into the future, the maps and tables will demonstrate changes in water and habitat quality to show improvements in some areas and declines in other that can illuminate needs and demonstrate success.
Future of the IRL Health Update
We know that changes in the watershed that surrounds the lagoon have huge impacts on the lagoon health. We hope to integrate land use into future assessment reports to show how land use changes relate to water and habitat quality. We can integrate additional habitat features, like wetlands and oyster reefs, if adequate data are gathered. And, we would like to add an important fisheries component.
Future research and analysis should focus on the relationships between water and habitat quality, rainfall and weather patterns, drainage alterations, land use patterns, restoration efforts, and policy implications.
Are we using the right indicators to fully evaluate the system’s health? The parameters selected for the initial health assessment leave gaps that don’t fully explain the system’s failure. For example, the link between nutrients and sea grass which have been explained in the literature become unclear when looking at the IRL regional relationships. This is particularly the case in the South IRL, where the difference in water quality and habitat quality is extreme.
If regulatory water quality targets are being met and habitat quality is poor, perhaps the regulatory targets aren’t adequately protecting system health. Further investigation can determine if habitat quality is being degraded by episodic or chronic conditions. These may lead to the development of additional regulatory targets and more rigorous efforts to measure and evaluate ecological health.