The health of the St. Johns River is generally improving, but scientists are concerned about some recent negative trends. Those are the takeaways from this year’s State of the River Report, presented Friday morning at the University of North Florida.
Lead scientists Radha Pyati and Lucinda Sonnenberg presented findings to a crowded ballroom at UNF’s Environmental Symposium. Sonnenberg, Director of the Millar Wilson Laboratory at JU, says the main takeaway is the need for more data.
“There is still an awful lot that we don't know about how the river functions and how it’s doing over time,” Sonnenberg said.
Sonnenberg says pollutants are still at “unsatisfactory” levels, but are trending down. But UNF chemistry professor Pyati says she’s concerned about rising levels of saltwater, which harms fisheries and endangered animals who are sensitive to small changes.
Pyati said, “The further upstream a saline zone moves, the further a female crab has to move to lay her eggs.”
Both Sonnenberg and Pyati say the report illustrates just how vital it is to monitor the St. Johns, so vital that Jacksonville’s Environmental Protection Board says it will continue to fund the effort for at least another three years.