A MOSAIC OF BIODIVERSITY
More than 4,000 species of plants and animals live in the lagoon watershed, making this region one of the most biodiverse places in the continental U.S. Just as maintaining biological diversity is essential in the health of the earth’s ecosystems and its resources, so to is it important to maintain in the Indian River Lagoon, else we risk losing it and all it provides us and our economy.
The term “Biodiversity” is a shortening of “Biological Diversity” and refers to the amount of variety we find in living organisms. It includes the amount of different species, genetic variation and habitat diversity. There are three general kinds of biodiversity:
- Habitat diversity
- Genetic diversity
- Species diversity
Each type of biodiversity is linked to the health of the others, and together they comprise the wealth of ecosystems.
THE HIGHEST AMOUNT OF ENDANGERED SPECIES
Fifty-three species of threatened or endangered animals live within the lagoon’s watershed with Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge alone containing more than any other national wildlife refuge in the U.S.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SEAGRASS
Seagrasses are perhaps the single most important habitat in the IRL because so many other species depend on them for food and habitat. The IRL is sometimes known as the “seagrass-based ecosystem” due to the nature of seagrass being the predominant plant-based food source for animals in the lagoon. For this reason, and for the fact that their growing habits change depending on the water quality, they serve as a barometer for gauging the overall health in the lagoon. Seagrasses are also valuable to the lagoon because they enhance water quality by removing nutrients and stabilize sediments.