provided to The Santiva Chronicle
In January, Coastal Watch launched their newest initiative, Back to Our Roots, to teach the value of mangroves on the islands through community involvement. The Coastal Watch Advisory Committee chose mangroves to be the focal point of 2021 because these unique trees play a valuable role in the barrier island ecosystem in Southwest Florida.
“Mangroves protect our shorelines and homes from wind damage, erosion and storm surge and mangrove-lined shorelines decrease wind speeds and reduce wave height,” said Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D., SCCF Marine Lab Director and Scientific Advisor for Coastal Watch. “This provides additional protection for barrier islands facing sea level rise.”
The ultimate goal of the Back to Our Roots initiative is to restore mangroves in order to preserve our islands for generations to come. Around Sanibel and Captiva, mangrove populations are considered stable but there has been noticeable degradation from a lack of tidal flushing. Without mangroves, the natural shoreline becomes threatened with increasing erosion.
“Degradation of mangroves occurs where roads or other development has blocked tidal flushing. Installing culverts or deepening flushing channels can improve mangroves without planting seedlings or propagules. Degradation can also occur along eroding shorelines, where waves or undercut banks can remove the understory while older trees survive. A high wind event, like a hurricane, can remove the canopy and lead to mangrove loss,” said Milbrandt.
Without intervention, there will be continued mangrove loss that will lead to increased shoreline erosion.
Not only are the shorelines at risk, but losing mangroves will also result in a loss of the many ecosystem services they provide. “Mangroves provide so many benefits and services including pollutant trapping, shoreline stabilization, storm protection, habitat for invertebrates and fish, and energy for our food webs,” said Milbrandt.
Through the Back to Our Roots initiative, Coastal Watch and SCCF’s Marine Lab are partnering to restore mangroves by allowing people to “adopt” a mangrove propagule that will later be planted at one of three local restoration sites with a goal of 10 total acres of restored area. Additionally, a “living shoreline” is being researched for both sides of Woodring Rd., along with a culvert or bridging project to help restore this vulnerable area.
“Back to Our Roots is a way to connect people to nature by teaching them the importance of mangroves and allowing them to take part in a much broader conservation initiative,” said Conservation Initiative Coordinator Kealy McNeal. “Through education, we can teach people to value, understand, and ultimately care for our environment.”
Coastal Watch will be hosting one more workshop in February for those that would like to join. The next virtual workshop is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 20 at 1 p.m. To register for the virtual workshop, visit https://sancapcoastalwatch.org/back-to-our-roots.
Part of the SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Family, Coastal Watch creates and implements conservation initiatives that promote and improve the future of marine resources and, our coastal heritage. For more information about Coastal Watch, please visit sancapcoastalwatch.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.