The 2011 State of the River Report for the Lower St. Johns River Basin was recently released. The annual State of the River Report is an important collaborative project involving researchers from Jacksonville University (JU), University of North Florida (UNF), and Valdosta State to help us better understand the current state and trends of various indicators related to the health of the St. Johns River.
Here are some excerpts from the full report:
Even more than last year, the lack of data has limited our assessment. While the reliability and accuracy of available data is improving with time, the quantity of new data samples for many locations is decreasing. This is a concern, as frequent data collection is required in order to determine whether environmental concerns, such as algal blooms, are linked to trends in water quality parameters.
Fecal Coliform Bacteria Section:
In summary, while the there are samples still exceeding the single sample level, there is clear improvement, and for 2008 to 2010 the mean values of each selected tributary are near or below established criteria.
Aquatic Life Section:
For the period 2008‐2010, the data showed a declining trend in grass bed parameters. Aerial survey observations of manatees and their habitat in Duval County indicated a decline in grass bed coverage north of the Buckman Bridge.
During the development of this report, it became clear that wetlands data for Northeast Florida are disconnected, incomplete, and have not been recorded with the precision needed to accurately assess trends over time. It is not even possible to determine with statistical certainty whether the total acres of wetlands in the Lower St. Johns River Basin (LSJRB) has gone up or down during recent decades.
Recent Activity Section:
In addition to the fish kills, seventeen dead bottlenose dolphin were reported between May and September in the LSJR, more than twice what has been typical in the past (two to six strandings per year). Nearly half of the animals were juveniles.
Metals in general have been elevated over natural background levels in sediments all throughout the LSJR for at least two decades and continue to do so today. Nearly all (75‐91%) of the sediments that were analyzed since 2000 have had concentrations of chromium, zinc, lead, cadmium, or mercury that are greater than natural background levels (NOAA 2008), sometimes by very large amounts. Metals are pervasive throughout the basin at levels substantially above what is considered natural background levels and there is no sign that concentrations are diminishing.
Learn more about the state of the St. Johns River and current trends by visiting the website https://www.sjrreport.com/. You can read the full report or access a brochure that summarizes the status and trend of the various indicators in an easy to read format.