SCCF and refuge staff partner to monitor tidal flushing
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Marine Lab has worked closely with staff at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge since 2003 to monitor water quality and seagrass health, and one joint project is providing information to help in tidal flow and water quality improvement efforts.
On June 4, the team relocated a water quality sonde from the tower to the impoundment on the west side of Wildlife Drive, an area with stagnant water, occasional fish kills and abundant macroalgae.
The sonde measures salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, turbidity and dissolved organic matter hourly in the impoundment. It was purchased by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge about two years ago, with a second one, and both are maintained by SCCF.
The SCCF reported that the impounded body of water, seen on the left while driving down Wildlife Drive, was once naturally connected to the tidally charged mangrove channels feeding into Pine Island Sound on the right. Currently, Wildlife Drive bisects them, with culverts beneath the road to link the tidal flows from one side to the other.
Regular tidal flow is important on both sides of Wildlife Drive. It promotes better health for mangrove and seagrass ecosystems, both crucial for birds, manatees and other wildlife that use the refuge habitats.
According to the SCCF, the relocation of the sonde was based on the stagnant water’s depth, elevation, GPS location, salinity and oxygen levels. Data from the sensor is being compared to the water conditions monitored by an adjacent sensor located in the Wulfert Flats with unrestricted tidal flushing.
Ultimately, the information will be used to apply for grants to improve the tidal flushing.