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Scientists planting seagrass hope to slow down Florida’s alarming loss

TAMPA – Seagrass is a main focus for marine biologist Nikki Jackson of Aquatech in Tampa, and the news hasn't been good.

"We have lost a lot of seagrass in our marine ecosystems here in the state of Florida," said Jackson.

Some of the plants will end up at Rock Ponds Preserve, more than 1,000 acres on the Hillsborough/Manatee County line.

It's former farmland that was acquired by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and transformed into a kind of living environmental laboratory.

Last April, Aquatech began planting the small sprigs of seagrass on the sandy bottom along the mangrove shorelines of the preserve. They hope to do it well enough to slow down Florida's disturbing loss of seagrass.

"They lost 6,000 acres in Tampa Bay alone," said Tom Ries of Ecosphere Restoration Institute. "And worse than that is Florida's East Coast. The Indian River Lagoon over the last 10 years lost 40,000 acres."

Ries has been designing environmental restorations in Florida for decades and curbing the loss of seagrass may be his biggest challenge yet.