Living Shoreline Project Reduces Pollutants Contributing to Harmful Algal Blooms

Living Shoreline Project Reduces Pollutants Contributing to Harmful Algal Blooms

Native Plants Reduce Pollutants in Mosquito Lagoon

For the past three years, Professor of Integrated Environmental Science Hyun Jung Cho, PhD, has partnered with municipalities, environmental agencies and 30 homeowners along Florida’s Mosquito Lagoon to restore some of the turf grass-dominated shoreline, restoring instead a natural, living shoreline of plants to buffer pollutants that contribute to harmful algal blooms.

Cho explains that fertilizers and household detergents containing phosphorous and nitrogen, which are plant nutrients, are a contributing factor for triggering of algae blooms. Cho has received nearly $700K in grant funding from the EPA-non-point source pollution program and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program to test how living shorelines constructed using Florida’s native wetland plants buffer these nutrients from stormwater runoff. 

“While algae are naturally occurring and an important part of the aquatic ecosystem, high levels of nutrients result in excessive algae growth forming thick surface mats at the top of the water interfering with light penetration and gas exchange, resulting in fish kills and dying manatees,” she said. “What we do through the EPA-funded grant is to restore some of the turf grass-dominated shoreline using Florida native wetland plants to see how effectively the native plant living shorelines are buffering nutrients and other pollutants compared to turf grass.”

The research team led by Cho conducts quarterly water quality measures and measures of plant growth at the study locations. Once a year, a simulated rain event (SRE) is conducted to mimic rainfall to determine the efficiency of living shoreline versus turf grass in reducing pollutants.

The initiative involves 30 waterfront property owners, city-owned properties and parks in New Smyrna, Edgewater and Oak Hill along with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, St. Johns River Water Management District and others.

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