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Volunteers needed for Clam Bayou mangrove restoration

By Staff | Aug 24, 2012

Photo by SHANNEN HAYES Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, right, and Research Associate Mark Thompson plant red mangroves in the waters of Clam Bayou as part of a restoration project that started 12 years ago. Volunteers are needed to help continue the project.

A community effort to restore mangroves in Clam Bayou is under way.

Volunteers, along side Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation’s marine laboratory, have been collecting and planting red mangroves continuing a project that began 12 years ago.

“Many ecological signs indicate that Clam Bayou is constantly improving,” said SCCF Marine Laboratory Director Eric Milbrandt about the biggest accomplishment since the start of the project.

The mangroves provide essential habitat for shrimp, crab, fish, wading birds and help protect the shoreline from erosion due to waves and tropical storms. In addition, mangroves improve water quality by trapping sediments, nutrients and pollutants thereby removing them from the water column.

Along the edges of open water, well-developed mangrove prop roots provide protection for juvenile animals from predators, as well as serving as an attachment basis for colonizing filter feeders, such as oysters.

“Fringing red mangroves provide many spaces for juvenile fish and invertebrates to feed and hide from their predators,” Milbrandt explains. “Complex prop roots are key for supporting fisheries.”

Red mangroves do not produce seeds or seedpods, they produce propagules seedlings which develop and grow on the mother tree until they are mature. It is when they are mature that the propagules are dropped into the ground or water. They are available from August through November and collected by volunteers to be planted along the shorelines in Clam Bayou.

“Mangroves also provide protection to absorb energy from storm surge, important in a hurricane frequented barrier island,” Milbrandt said about why mangroves are important to the ecosystem.

Since hurricanes, along with human-induced disturbances, have degraded the mangroves in Clam Bayou, it prompted the City of Sanibel to install box culverts in 2006 to help improve tidal flushing into the bayou.

Volunteers are still needed to help plant mangroves Aug. 31 and Sept. 1,7,8 in Clam Bayou, which means paddling to restoration sites. Kayaks are recommended and pre-registration is required. Call 395-4617 or email marinelab@sccf.org to register as a volunteer for any of the above dates.

“It is a chance to meet new people, learn about Clam Bayou and mangrove research with SCCF scientists,” said Milbrandt.