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Mangrove research at SCCF’s Marine Laboratory

By Staff | Apr 15, 2020
SCCF Measuring mangrove seedlings.
SCCF Lab staff checking mangrove damage caused by Hurricane Charley in 2004.

Mangroves have long been known to provide structure and primary productivity to tropical estuaries, benefitting fish and invertebrate species. More recently, the structure of healthy mangroves has proven to decrease wave height and absorb wind energy during storm events, protecting property and shorelines from being severely damaged. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Lab’s research on Sanibel has demonstrated how mangroves function during and after hurricanes and how human activities can decrease function.

More recently, mangroves are being recognized for their role in “land building” in response to rising sea levels. When mangroves are not impaired, trimmed or degraded, it is estimated that the deposition of sediment and leaf material can accumulate 1 foot per 100 years. Conservative estimates of sea level rise are about 1 foot per 100 years. Research is being led by biologist Jeremy Conrad, with the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, to measure the rate of accumulation relative to the rate of subsidence (sinking). In addition, other researchers have come to Sanibel to collect new data on mangroves, such as Dr. Jaime Duberstein from Clemson University.

Dr. Eric Milbrandt is the director of the SCCF Marine Laboratory.