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Coastal Watch to host virtual workshop for new initiative

By COASTAL WATCH - | Feb 16, 2021

In January, Coastal Watch launched its new 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 the 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,” Coastal Watch scientific advisor and SCCF Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt said. “This provides additional protection for barrier islands facing sea level rise.”

The goal of the initiative is to restore mangroves to preserve the islands for future generations. 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,” he said. “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.”

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,” Milbrandt said.

Through the initiative, Coastal Watch and the 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 Road, along with a culvert or bridging project to help restore the 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,” Conservation Initiative Coordinator Kealy McNeal said. “Through education, we can teach people to value, understand, and ultimately care for our environment.”

Coastal Watch will host one more virtual workshop on Feb. 20 at 1 p.m.

To register, visit https://sancapcoastalwatch.org/back-to-our-roots.

Part of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation family, Coastal Watch creates and implements conservation initiatives that promote and improve the future of marine resources and coastal heritage. For more information, visit sancapcoastalwatch.org or contact coastalwatch@sanibelseaschool.org.