01 Aug Volunteers plant and study red mangrove propagules along canals in North Cape Coral
by Trish Fancher, Executive Director, Keep Lee County Beautiful, Inc.
Mangroves are critical to the health of our waterways and ecosystems. As they grow they strengthen the shoreline decreasing the chance of further erosion and act as a buffer during tropical storms and hurricanes. Because the mangroves encounter the damaging winds and waves before inland areas do, the branches in their canopies, and their root system creates friction that reduces the force of wind and waves.
In its 4th year Mangrove Mania expects to plant an additional 10,000 mature red mangrove Rhizophora mangle propagules along Lee County shorelines this fall. The soft, sandy banks have been eroded due to power boat wakes and the invasion of invasive exotics. Red mangrove propagules will help establish a fringing mangrove forest and will provide some stabilization to the shoreline.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has agreed to permit both the planting and collection of mature local red mangrove propagules by David and Susan Scott. The propagules will then be stored in a floating 1,000-gallon container of the canal water which the propagules were removed from. The day prior to planting, the propagules are placed into small bags in lots of 100-150 each. Approximately 150 volunteers will then walk the sandy shoreline and hand plant each individual propagule.
Mangroves also perform a vital ecological role providing a habitat for a wide variety of species ranging from fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds. There are also many inhabitants that may not reside in them, but they use the areas for foraging, roosting, and breeding. It has also been shown that the fish densities in mangrove areas are up to 35 times higher than adjacent seagrass beds.
These mangroves also help to filter the water. This is done in two ways. First, is their relationship with associated marine life. They provide attachments surfaces for various marine organisms that filter water through their bodies and trap and cycle nutrients. Second, is that the mangrove roots will absorb salt which is excreted in their leaves helping to keep salinity levels in balance.
Approximately six months after the planting, a group of volunteer students will venture back to the treatment site to conduct a field study of the growth and health condition of the young mangrove trees. Armed with meter sticks and clipboards, volunteers will measure terminal shoot growth of the seedlings in multiple research plots. Metal identification tags will be placed on several of these trees for future monitoring. In prior years, students found that approximately 80% of the propagules that survived six months along the canals had grown an average of 25 cm.
Our mission as Keep Lee County Beautiful, Inc. is to inspire, educate, and engage the Lee County community in improving, beautifying, and protecting our environment. This project allows us to accomplish all those goals while offering hands-on experiences for those we serve.
This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2018 competitive grant cycle. We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com