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One Millionth Marsh Grass Plant Donated for Coastal Restoration

children planting in marsh

June 11, 2013, marked a significant habitat-restoration milestone for the Tampa Bay watershed. On that day, the 1 millionth marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora) plant was harvested from the FWC Stock Enhancement Research Facility’s (SERF) donor salt marsh site at Port Manatee and replanted at the future home of the Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC) in Apollo Beach. To mark the occasion, summer campers from the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA planted three thousand marsh plants at the new donor marsh.

This FCTC marsh features multiple grass species, such as Spartina bakerii, S. patens and Paspalum vaginatum, that can be harvested and replanted to aid future coastal and inland habitat restoration efforts. Five thousand Spartina plants create one acre of restored habitat, which will stabilize coastal shorelines and provide food and shelter for fish, birds, and marine mammals. These grasses are also used as natural bio-filters, as they pull nutrients out of the water to grow. The donor marsh will filter water used at the FCTC including for the Marine Fisheries Enhancement Center, and Turtle Care (Florida Aquarium) ensuring water is cleaned before returning to Tampa Bay.

Since 1997, Spartina plants harvested from the SERF marsh have been replanted at 90 locations throughout Tampa Bay, including 26 school nurseries. The FWC has collaborated with several partner organizations, including Tampa Bay Watch and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, to stabilize coastal shorelines with replanted marsh grass.