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Volunteers sought to assist SCCF with replanting red mangrove trees

By Staff | Nov 16, 2009

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is looking for a few good men. And women. And anybody who would like to see Sanibel’s red mangrove population restored to pre-Hurricane Charley numbers.

Sabrina Lartz, Research Assistant at the SCCF Marine Laboratory, is coordinating the effort to plant red mangrove propagules (“seeds”) in Clam Bayou in the coming weeks.

Mangroves in Clam Bayou once thrived but have had difficulty re-establishing after a die-off in the late 1990s. The construction of a culvert connecting Clam Bayou to Pine Island Sound in 2006 provided tidal circulation and has improved water quality, but the shoreline re-vegetation process still requires a little assistance from mankind.

“Beach renourishment and hurricanes have impacted tidal flow,” said Lartz, a native of Wisconsin. “That means that the water here isn’t flushing as well as it used to.”

According to Lartz, mangroves protect coastal areas from erosion caused by hurricanes and tropical storms while providing a quiet marine nursery for young fish.

“When young fish grow too big to hide within the sea grasses, they find shelter inside the mangroves,” she explained. “There, they are protected from bigger fish and other predators.”

The red mangrove restoration effort started earlier this year, when students from South Fort Myers High School planted mangrove propagules in Clam Bayou with SCCF Environmental Educator Richard Finkel.

Last fall, Finkel collected approximately 200 red mangrove propagules from Dixie Beach Road and brought them to the students as part of SCCF’s ongoing mangrove research and restoration program. Students, with assistance from SCCF staff and their science teachers, set up growth experiments so that they could measure the growth rates of the seedlings at several salinity and nutrient levels.

This educational and school outreach component of SCCF’s Mangrove Research Project was initiated as a way to educate students about the ecology of the backbay estuary system and the water quality issues impacting Southwest Florida.

Over the past two years, more than 250 students have been involved with this mangrove replanting effort. Lartz is hoping to further engage the community with this project, stressing the importance of mangroves to the local estuaries as well as doing things in our everyday lives that supports water quality.

“We need to be mindful that because we live on an island, water is precious and scarce,” she said. “Conserving it by installing water saving devices in our showers and sinks and watering our lawns less will help to lower utlility costs and benefit the environment. Be conscious of what we put down the drain as well. Make sure that you know it is safe.”

A Wildlife Management and Ecology major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Lartz previously served as an intern at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in early 2009. Shortly after joining a shorebird research project with a private corporation in New Jersey this summer, she was asked to interview with SCCF for an opening at their Marine Laboratory. Lartz joined their staff three weeks ago.

“SCCF and ‘Ding’ are two awesome organizations,” she said. “I feel like a conduit between the two. Everything that one of them does seems to benefit the other. They’ve got a very good relationship and I’m proud to be associated with both.”

Lartz and fellow SCCF staffers need about 30 volunteers to help them plant red mangrove propagules in Clam Bayou. They will conduct two plantings, on Saturday, Nov. 21 and Saturday, Dec. 12, to collect and plant red mangroves.

“The residents of Clam Bayou have been very understanding and supportive,” Lartz said. “They’ve let us launch our kayaks and canoes from their dock. They’ve offered wonderful support for everything SCCF does.”

Participants should meet in the parking lot of 900-A Tarpon Bay Road at 10 a.m. (on both dates). All of the plantings are expected to be completed by 1:30 p.m.

If you are interested in taking part in the mangrove restoration project, contact Sabrina Lartz via e-mail at slartz@sccf.org or by phone at 262-993-9789.