River report shows improvement, but there is room for more

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The health of the St. Johns River is improving, but the effects of past neglect and abuse linger in the lower basin, according to the fifth annual State of the River Report.

On Wednesday, the report from researchers at Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Valdosta State University was made public.

The report, which was funded by the City of Jacksonville's Environmental Protection board, examines five areas: aquatic life, contaminants, aquatic toxicology, fisheries and water quality.

Water quality, which had the most "unsatisfactory" labels, still showed slight improvement in the measurements of bacteria, metals and turbidity.

Nutrient levels also seem to be going down, which could reduce the algae blooms that have been an issue in years past.

Creatures in the aquatic life and fisheries categories are doing well. The report found little evidence of overfishing of shrimp, finfish or stone crabs.

Aquatic life such as manatees and bald eagles are also doing well, however, they will remain vulnerable if their habitat is threatened or diminished. Sixty-four nonnative species were found, and these could affect the native species in the river.

Researchers behind the report said the river's continued improvement will be contingent upon the work put into it.

"Through citizen efforts, environmental regulation and commitment from communities, the outlook for the health of the river is brighter than it was two decades ago. Whether we will realize this brighter outlook will depend on our future commitment to it," said Dr. Lucinda Sonnenberg, director of the Millar Wilson Laboratory at Jacksonville University.

The full report can be found at this link: www.sjrreport.com


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