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2022 St. Johns River Report Released

The 2022 St. Johns River Report, developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from UNF, Jacksonville University (JU) and other universities, was released at the annual Environmental Symposium. The research team will discuss the findings during a virtual presentation and panel discussion hosted by WJCT Public Media at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

This year’s report offers signs of positive progress regarding the health of the river, while some concerning trends are getting worse. The River Report is an analysis of the health of the Lower St. Johns River Basin funded by the City of Jacksonville’s Environmental Protection Board. The report focuses on four main areas of the river: water quality, fisheries, aquatic life and contaminants.

The research team noted that the tributaries flowing into the St. Johns River continue to be badly polluted with nitrogen, phosphorous, fecal bacteria, and other materials. In addition, harmful algal blooms continue to occur in the river every year.  Wetlands also continue to be lost due to development, and the use of mitigation banks far outpace good alternatives like preservation, restoration, and enhancement. Additionally, critical submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) -- a primary habitat for fish and wildlife and a food source for native species such as the manatee -- has declined significantly in several regions of the basin over the long term.

There were some positive findings. Most fin fish and invertebrates are not in danger of overfishing. Protected species continue to fare well, despite recent storms and effect on habitat. This year’s report offers a new highlight section on what flooding and resiliency means in Jacksonville. In addition, new maps about flood risk and social vulnerability are available, as well as a new story map to help educate readers about what resiliency can look like for our area.

An interdisciplinary team of experts contributed to this report. At UNF, Dr. Charles Closmann, associate professor of history, updated the historical background section and edited the report for the general public. Dr. Dale Casamatta, professor of biology, edited and updated the important chapter on algal blooms. Dr. Brian Zoellner, associate professor of teaching, learning & curriculum, helped JU students create presentations for secondary educators to teach their students about water quality, salinity, aquatic animals, invasive species and more. Dr. Stuart Chalk, professor of chemistry, created a research archive related to the report and assisted with making this accessible on the web. UNF’s Center for Instruction and Research Technology (CIRT), and especially Mike Boyles, Shelby Scanlon, and David Wilson, provided valuable web support. Former UNF professor Dr. Radha Pyati, now Dean of Science and Mathematics at West Chester University, wrote the executive summary and the turbidity section.