One of the best advantages of living in Florida is that, if we travel far enough in either a Westerly or Easterly direction, we will find…water! And, one really cool thing about that is when the water seems to glow, as if by magic.
On a summer evening in the Indian River lagoon, a natural magic illuminates the wake of a boat, the splash from a paddle, or creates beautiful blue flashes of frenzied schools of mullet. If you run your fingers through the water, you can see it fall in gorgeous blue-green luminescent droplets… What is causing the lagoon to glow? Bioluminescence! Tiny dinoflagellates (Pyrodinium bahamense) – or bioluminescent plankton – create light through biochemical reactions. When excited or stimulated, these plankton become little flashlights in the water, much like fireflies do on land.
This evening, the plankton are lighting our way, as we kayak along the Indian River and into the lagoon. Originally named the “Rio de Ais,” after the Ais tribe of Native Americans who made their home along the East coast of Florida, the lagoon is, in actuality, a grouping of five lagoons, which comprise the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere, with over 10,000 species of plants and animals – thirty-five of these threatened or endangered. The lagoon is rife with game fish, such as tarpon or snook, which grow to epic sizes because there are very few predators in the lagoon. It is also host to all three types of mangroves, which provide filtration and nutrition to the ecosystem. We are told by our guide that, due to development, the mangrove population has been reduced by 85%. In addition, the water level in the system is rising due to increased runoff from the city. And there is also the danger from algae blooms, which form as a result of deforestation, pollution and high temperatures. Surely, these things are serious indications of danger to our natural ecosystems. However, they do not detract from the magic we are witnessing this evening; the beautiful blue glow serving as a reminder of the uniqueness and intricacy of this environment, one we must cherish and protect.
If You Go…
If you are looking for an educational, but interesting and fun adventure to share with family or friends, consider taking a bioluminescence tour! BK Adventure offers environmentally-friendly guided eco-tours. For more information, they can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.bkadventure.com | (407) 519-8711
To help ensure an enjoyable experience, we suggest wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and closed shoes, and taking along some mosquito repellent, as well as a change of clothes, as you will likely get wet – but, that’s part of the fun!
*Bioluminescence photo courtesy of BK Adventure*