The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is a GCOOS member and contributing data partner dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Florida. To date, the SCCF manages over 1,300 acres of land, including acreage in the surrounding watershed of the two Islands. Active research projects in the SCCF Marine Laboratory include monitoring of and restoration projects involving seagrasses and mangroves, and active monitoring of HABs and fish populations in the area. The SCCF is also currently operating a network of real-time water quality instrumentation in south Florida. This network, referred to as the River Estuary Coastal Observing Network (RECON; recon.sccf.org) is designed for tracking changes in water quality from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico. RECON, operational since 2007, is a fully integrated and portable system composed of nine Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory (LOBO) sensors with seven deployed at fixed locations (see map), one designated as a “mobile” unit deployed at sites of interest, and the final serving as a back-up unit for the fixed locations.
RECON is a unique water quality monitoring network due to the integration of the LOBO sensors. The LOBOs, originally developed by Dr. Ken Johnson (MBARI) and made commercially available by Satlantic, provide high accuracy and stability sensors integrated with antibiofouling systems to maximize deployment time and minimize operational costs. The sensor suite includes the WET Labs WQM instrument with an ECO series fluorometer and turbidity sensor with integrated bio-wiper, integrated CTD and dissolved oxygen sensors with a comprehensive antifouling system to extend deployment duration in the Florida coastal environment. The system also includes the Satlantic ISUS chemical-free nitrate sensor and a Nortek Aquadopp to collect water velocity profiles. For more information regarding the SCCF’s deployment of LOBOs with Satlantic’s Sensor Observation Services (SOS), please visit http://gcoos.tamu.edu/?p=4369.
The data generated from RECON help scientists monitor conditions and specific processes related to water quality and resource management such as:
- Alteration of light that sustains seagrass habitats
- Rapid pulses of freshwater from run-off, low dissolved oxygen (DO) and hypoxic (low oxygen) zones make habitats unsuitable for many species, resulting in reduced biodiversity
- High chlorophyll concentrations indicative of enhanced nutrient levels
- Algae blooms resulting in low DO and hypoxic zones
Data available at recon.sccf.org and through the GCOOS Data Portal include physical, biological, and chemical measurements including temperature, depth, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, CDOM, chlorophyll, and nitrate. Examples of the real-time data and products made available to the general public and resources managers are shown in the following figure.
The SCCF-RECON observatory was the first phase of the GCOOS Integrated Water Quality Network (IWQN), a project started as collaboration between GCOOS-RA and the GOMA Water Quality Priority Issue Team. The GCOOS IWQN was originally developed in response to the identification of water quality as a national priority and the formation of the National Water Quality Monitoring Council. The five U.S. Gulf states have also identified water quality as a major issue for a healthy Gulf economy and ecosystem. In 2012, the first phase of the IWQN development included the partnership with SCCF to share water quality data from RECON stations and to host a workshop at SCCF to bring together southwest Florida water quality data providers for integration into the IWQN. The integration of RECON data into the GCOOS Data Portal and the workshop were successes for both SCCF and GCOOS, which have since led to a second IWQN workshop in Louisiana to integrate Louisiana and Mississippi water quality data providers and the preparations for third workshop in Texas in early 2014.
Partnerships, such as this example between GCOOS and SCCF, are extremely valuable to expanding the numbers and types of data observations in the Gulf of Mexico. Eric Milbrandt, Director of the SCCF Marine Laboratory, supports the partnering efforts by adding that “algae blooms, hypoxia, habitat losses due to poor water quality affect fisheries production, environmental tourism, and property values. Many of these challenges that coastal communities face are not unique and often require real-time data and a regional synthesis. The GCOOS and SCCF partnership extends the data sharing capabilities and brings attention to the operation and management of the Caloosahatchee, a coastal system that suffers from extremes of too little water or too much water.”Â From the GCOOS perspective, Executive Director Dr. Ann Jochen adds “the Gulf of Mexico observing system that is GCOOS brings together data from diverse non-federal, as well as federal, sources; this allows the integration of all these data into information and products that are beneficial to the many Gulf communities that depend on a healthy ecosystem and economy to live, work and play in the Gulf of Mexico. The building of the GCOOS depends on the willingness of partners like the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation to share the data from their observing systems for the greater good of the people of our nation.”
You too can follow along with the GCOOS-SCCF partnership! To monitor real-time water quality in the Sanibel-Captiva region, please visit the GCOOS Data Portal (http://data.gcoos.org) and the SCCF website (http://recon.sccf.org/loboviz/index.shtml)