The Friends of the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves (FCHAP) is a Citizen Support Organization for the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves and the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.


Volunteers Wanted for Oyster Project

DEP Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves (CHAP) andTheNature Conservancy are working together to create new oyster habitat in the Peace River, adjacent to CHAP and the City of Punta Gorda's Trabue Harborwalk. Volunteers are needed immediately to help with all aspects of this project, from drilling oyster shells, preparing mat material, making oyster mats, filling bags with shell, to deploying the materials in the water. There's something for everyone! This is a great volunteer project for civic groups, schools, clubs, boating groups, recreational clubs, church groups - or anyone looking for a fun way to help restore the estuary. Visit http://bit.ly/charlotteharbor for more information.

Please contact Katherine Aug, Community Outreach Coordinator at 941-575-5861 ext. 117 or Katherine.Aug@dep.state.fl.us if you are interested in helping with the project.


Southwest Florida Estuaries in Early August

It's Reptile Month in the Estuary

Diamondback Terrapins Hatch

Female terrapins, Malaclemys terrapin, usually place their nests in sand dunes or scrub vegetation near the water in June and July.  Females will quickly abandon a nest attempt if they are disturbed while nesting.  Like many turtles, terrapin have temperature dependent sex determination, meaning that the sex of hatchlings is the result of incubation temperature.  Females can lay up to three clutches of eggs/year in the wild, and up to five clutches/year in captivity. Clutches in southern Florida vary from 6-10 eggs/clutch.  After covering the nest, terrapins quickly return to the water and do not return except to nest again.

The eggs usually hatch in 60–85 days, depending on the temperature and the depth of the nest.  Hatchlings sometimes stay on land in the nesting areas in both fall and spring, and they may remain terrestrial for much or all of the winter in some places.  Hatchlings have lower salt tolerance than adults. As the young move into water, some survive but many augment the food chain for herons and fishes.

Crocodile Hatch

Female American crocodiles, Crocodylus acutus, lay their eggs in June and incubate them by covering the eggs with dirt to keep them warm. The sex of the offspring is determined by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated. High temperatures of 88 to 91 degrees F. produce male offspring, while anything lower than 88 degrees results in females. However, the temperature must remain above 82 degrees in order for the eggs to hatch. While the hard-shelled eggs are hatching, the female will rest her head above the nest, listening for noise from the young that cue her to uncover the nest in preparation for their hatching. Once uncovered, the mother aids the hatchlings in climbing out of the eggs, and later escorts the young to the water when they are ready. After the young hatch, they rely on the attached yolk of the egg for nourishment for as long as two weeks. Newly hatched American crocodiles are particularly vulnerable and therefore must hide. The food supply of the yolk keeps them nourished until they are more competent and secure. As they mature and grow, young American crocodiles start to hunt insects on land, much like the foraging style of other lizards.

Why Isn't the Estuary Water Blue?

One reason for colored estuary water is the amount of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) in the water. CDOM occurs naturally from tannins released from decaying plant material in soil. Ordinary groundwater flow extracts some of the tannins; they impart a yellow color to the water. Human activities such as logging, agriculture, sewage effluent discharge, and wetland drainage also increase CDOM in fresh water and estuarine systems. These are all things that we as citizens can do something about.

CDOM absorbs short wavelength light ranging from blue to ultraviolet, whereas pure water absorbs the longer-wavelength red light. Therefore, water with little suspended sediment and little or no CDOM appears blue. The color of water will range through green, yellow-green, and brown as CDOM increases.

The quality of light reaching the submerged seagrass meadows is important. CDOM diminishes light as it penetrates the estuary water. Insufficient short wavelength light limits photosynthesis in the seagrass itself, reduces the number of grass shoots, and reduces the depths at which underwater plants can grow.

CDOM can inhibit the growth of phytoplankton populations, which form the basis of estuary food chains. Phytoplankton are also a primary source of atmospheric oxygen. Chlorophyll-a from photosynthesis is a key indicator of phytoplankton activity. However, CDOM and chlorophyll-a both absorb in the same spectral range of light so it is difficult to differentiate between the two. When either is present in excess, they harm growth in the seagrass meadows.

For more detailed information, see www.sccf.org, and look for RECON.