Sanibel Vegetation Committee Hears Presentation On Climate Change

by SC Reporter Ariadna Ampudia

Mangroves may be the key to combating climate change on Sanibel. SC file photo by Kyle Sweet

The Sanibel Vegetation Committee hosted a presentation by guest speaker Dr. Carrie Schuman, who spoke about climate change and its possible effects on Sanibel’s ecosystem and ways to increase the island’s coastal resiliency, during the committee’s February meeting, held at City Hall.

Schuman, coastal resilience manager for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and Captiva Erosion Prevention District, discussed temperature, climate change, coastal flooding, hurricane intensity, changes in precipitation, flood risk and rising sea levels.

Globally, there is a surge of warmer temperatures and higher sea levels. Also, there is a possibility for more “intense” hurricanes and warmer days, said Schuman. While vegetation may pose a risk in climate change, it can also become a solution.

Due to an increase of carbon dioxide, photosynthesis has been happening more across the globe.

Plants in most tropical areas, such as Florida, have a lower chance of photosynthesis and a harder time responding to any changes in the environment. Plants close to the equator usually have a lesser ability to respond to environmental changes, while plants near the poles are more adaptive to change.

“The tricky part with vegetation is not all types of vegetation communities are going to respond in the same way,” Schuman said.

Invasive plants, however, have an easier time “capitalizing” or taking over environmental conditions than native plants. If these plants are or become more adaptive, residents and committee members must remain “vigilant” in a time of constantly changing conditions, Schuman said.

As a way to improve the future, vegetation plays an essential role to help with water issues such as sea level rises, temperature, flooding and more. Mangroves may act as saltwater marshes, which can help alter or stop the air or wind energy dealing with water. With the rise of sea levels, salt and fresh water may end up in places where they do not belong.

She said mangroves may be the key to combating climate change on Sanibel. She explained mangroves not only stop the passing of air, wind, and wave energy but they also protect infrastructure and lessen the risk of flooding.

Schuman, who holds a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary ecology with a focus on fisheries and aquatic sciences from the University of Florida, has been assisting Sanibel and Captiva in achieving coastal resilience. She said she plans to have an “ongoing dialogue” with the committee about what the future entails for vegetation and its role in a coastal resilience strategy for the city.

She also revealed a possible partnership with the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge to help brainstorm ideas on how vegetation plays a role in resiliency and create a “unified message” to find ways to combat climate change.

Committee plans event for National Invasive Species Awareness Week:

City of Sanibel Environmental Specialist Dana Dettmar, who is a liaison to the committee, proposed participating in a booth event with the Sanibel Farmer’s Market, in honor of National Invasive Species Awareness week, which is from Feb. 28 to March 4.

The booth would be held on Feb. 27, right before the week starts. The committee hopes to promote information and publicity on removing “invasive exotics”, said Dettmar.

The farmer’s market lasts six hours, which would allow three waves of members to help participate.

The event will consist of three shifts in which committee members can volunteer to take part. The first shift will be from 7:45 a.m. to 9:30a.m., when volunteers will help set up the table and booth for the day. The second shift will be from 9:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., while the last shift will go from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The city will provide a tent canopy, a table, and a board used to promote knowledge on invasive species. The table will also contain lists of invasive and native species residents should watch out for, separated into two distinct categories.

Absent committee members will be informed of the upcoming event by Dettmar for possible participation or interest in helping.

“We will put more information out to the committee leading up to the week,” Dettmar said.

Local podcast seeks out participation from Vegetation Committee:

A local podcast has reached out to the vegetation committee for members to be included in an upcoming podcast episode for a discussion about the committee.

The Sanibel Captiva Guide is a podcast hosted by Nick Adams, a local photographer. At times, he will be accompanied by his wife and son on episodes.

Adams reached out to Dettmar about a possible feature from a committee member to learn more about the history of the vegetation committee and its participation in Arbor Day.

The podcast also interviews local residents, residents with historical families from Sanibel, and indulge in trivia at the end of every episode.

Dettmar said alongside another committee member, she would also be participating in the new episode.

The committee then nominated Phyllis Gresham, the longest serving member on the vegetation committee, to take part.

“I think [Gresham] being the longest standing person here [and participating in the podcast] would be appropriate,” said Pam Miller, a vegetation committee member.

Dettmar said she would still need to coordinate the proper details with Adams before getting involved, such as a day to meet and record the episode.

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