Indian River Lagoon photo by Florida State Parks.

From the St. Johns River Water Management District

The St. Johns River Water Management District and Brevard Zoo today celebrated the launch of an innovative cost-sharing project to reintroduce clams into the Indian River Lagoon with the goal of establishing new clam populations in the estuary.

“Since 2016, we’ve collaborated with 52 partners on projects targeted to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “This particular cost-share project is special because it reintroduces a native species that filters water in the lagoon while taking advantage of the Brevard Zoo’s ability to organize and involve volunteers in the endeavor.”

Brevard Zoo is leading the project, which calls for establishing clam sites at 100 locations in the Indian River Lagoon. The bivalves will begin filtering and improving the water quality of the Indian River.

“After seeing early promising results from our oyster restoration and living shoreline projects, we are eager to begin working with clams as another tool to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon,” said Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten. “We are grateful to the St. Johns River Water Management District and the State of Florida for investing in this new endeavor to restore critical ecosystem services.”

St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle displays a tub of clams that will be introduced into the Indian River Lagoon to improve clam populations and help improve water quality. Shortelle, District Governing Board members, Brevard Zoo officials, and other dignitaries attended today’s celebration to kick off this District cost-share project.

Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, a University of Florida research center in St. Augustine, will provide a nursery-raised hard-shell clam known for surviving brown tide and other algal bloom events. Seed clams will be added to several of the Zoo’s existing oyster restoration reefs, as research shows both clams and oysters have greater survival rates when together. Some sites will be planted with aquatic grasses cultivated by the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. The project includes long-term monitoring to evaluate and track clam survival rates.

The District provided $1.03 million for the project through its cost-share program, with Brevard Zoo contributing a local match of $90,676.

The St. Johns River Water Management District staff are committed to ensuring the sustainable use and protection of water resources for the benefit of the people of the District and the State of Florida. The St. Johns River Water Management District is one of five districts in Florida managing groundwater and surface water supplies in the state. The District encompasses all or part of 18 northeast and east-central Florida counties. District headquarters are in Palatka, and staff also are available to serve the public at service centers in Maitland, Jacksonville, and Palm Bay.

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