Everglades Ecosystems New Champion FWC

The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund is expanding its commitment to Florida conservation with a $100,000 grant to the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to restore Everglades ecosystems.

Everglades Florida Bay Sponges
Sponges filter out bacterial cells, plankton and bits of organic
matter suspended in the water.

The largest of these projects is sponge restoration in Everglades Florida Bay. As recently as the 1980s, Florida Bay held the greatest concentration of sponges in North America. But algae blooms and lack of sufficient freshwater from the Everglades contributed to the death of 95 percent of the Bay’s sponges. Without these sponges, Florida Bay cannot sustain its previous abundance of marine life. Projects underway in the Everglades will increase the flow of clean, fresh water, allowing the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) to begin restoration of the Bay’s ecosystem. As a first step, FWC has grown 15,000 new sponges from cuttings of seven species and is planting them in four areas targeted for restoration. The Outdoor Fund grant will fund this work and help FWC grow and plant another 60,000 sponges.

“We are extremely grateful to Bass Pro Shops,” said John Hunt, FWC program administrator. “This generous contribution is a critically important step that will help us realize our goal of outplanting 60,000 sponges in Florida Bay over the next few years.”

The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund is also funding restoration along the Loxahatchee River. The northwest fork of the Loxahatchee River, one of only two nationally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in Florida, is a haven for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts. Despite being a protected river, it has not escaped impacts from upstream water diversion and saltwater intrusion, causing the loss of aquatic plants. Thanks again to projects that have restored natural water flows, the river is ready for replanting. With this grant, 1,500 bare-root eelgrass plants (Vallisneria americana) will be placed in degraded areas of the northwest fork. Once established, they should spread throughout the river.

“We are proud to partner with the Foundation to advance these priority conservation efforts,” said Bob Ziehmer, president of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund. “Working together, we can better ensure the health of Florida’s amazing and diverse aquatic resources for future generations.”

Saltwater intrusion has also caused the loss of much of the Loxahatchee’s bald cypress floodplain forest. Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund’s support, part of its “Florida Conservation Solutions Fund,” will allow FWC to plant 1,000 bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) within Jonathan Dickinson State Park. With ongoing projects restoring the salinity in the area, the tree planting will provide new habitat for wildlife and help return the Loxahatchee floodplain to its original ecological function.

“The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund has once again stepped up to restore and conserve two of south Florida’s finest natural habitats,” said Foundation President and CEO Andrew Walker. “Their continued commitment to Florida conservation ensures the wonders of the Everglades ecosystem will be available for future generations.”

About the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida

The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and other public and private partners to conserve Florida’s native animals and plants and the lands and waters they need to survive. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has raised and donated $45 million to conservation and outdoor recreation and education. More information can be found at wildlifeflorida.org.

Source: Everglades ecosystems find a new champion | Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida

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