Innovative mangrove restoration site near Marco Island
Authorities on Friday inaugurated one of the state’s largest mangrove restoration projects, just off San Marco Road at Fruit Farm Creek near Marco Island.
The project took decades after roads cut off tidal currents to around 260 acres of black mangroves. Currently, 64 acres have died and another 159 acres are damaged or are dying.
âBasically we’re trying to cure a heart attack,â said Keith Laakkonen, director of the Rookery Bay National Estuary Research Reserve, which coordinates the restoration.
Workers will install between four and six large culverts under San Marco Road to allow water movement.
Mangroves need periods of drought in winter and humidity in warmer months to stay healthy, and culverts should re-establish this exchange.
Testing the waters: Rookery Bay mangrove restoration pilot efforts begin
Earlier: Push is on the march to restore the dying mangrove forest near Marco Island
Following: Marco Island Residents Hear Mangrove Restoration Plan
Representatives of local, state and federal agencies were in attendance as well as non-profit organizations and businesses, reflecting a sentiment emphasized by Laakkonen: cooperation.
âThe most important thing is: you need a village. It’s a real collaboration, âhe said.
Funding for the project came from several sources, including the Florida Resilient Coastlines program from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The project even saw $ 25,000 in donations from the public.
Many people also donated their time and effort to move the project forward, Laakkonen said.
Mangroves provide valuable habitat for birds and fishing, protect shorelines from storm surges during hurricanes, and store carbon that would otherwise act as a greenhouse gas, said Bill Mitsch, director of Everglades Wetland Research. Park at Florida Gulf Coast University in Naples.
âMangroves are considered by some people to be the treasured ecosystem throughout Florida because they do so much,â Mitsch said.
Laura Flynn, a wetland scientist at the Coastal Resources Group, who will work on the project’s hydrology, said the grand opening was a day she had been looking forward to for a long time.
âCoastal Resources Group started working on this project in 2008,â she said. “Robin Lewis led the effort with Kathy Worley at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to better understand what was causing the decline of these mangroves and to come up with a mangrove restoration plan.”
Flynn said it was Lewis’ favorite project and said she didn’t believe it was a coincidence that the opening day marked the third anniversary of his death.
“I know if he was here today he would be very happy to be with you and would be very grateful for the funding to carry out the project,” she said.
Lewis and Mitsch used to teach classes together and the couple took their classes at the San Marco Road site.
âRobin Lewis was a champion of this project for years,â Mitsch said. âHe should be named after him. “
Worley, at the Conservancy, began work on the project in 1996 as part of a graduate scholarship shared between Rookery Bay and the Conservancy.
âAt that time, there were only about 90 acres of dead mangroves, which was a lot, but you can see how they’re growing,â she said. “When you don’t fix the problem, it will continue to spread.”
There have been many trials and tribulations, she said, and restoration would not be possible if the people had not stayed the course and passed the torch.
âPeople saw the need and they kept pushing,â she said.
Josh Evans, with JR Evans Engineering, worked on the first phase of the project, a bit of a proving ground on San Marco Road about a mile west of Friday’s grand opening.
Evans and his company worked on modeling to show that the mangroves needed restored water flows, and the success of the first phase proved it.
âJust by collecting the water properly, the plants came back,â Evans said.
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Corey Anderson, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said each acre of mangrove generates $ 7,100 in economic value through fishing, observable wildlife and protecting infrastructure.
“A recent Nature Conservancy study found that the value of the mangrove property protection provided, right here in southwest Florida when Hurricane Irma hit land, was worth $ 1.2 billion in damage. avoided, âhe said.
The City of Marco Island will coordinate construction of the San Marco Road culverts, and board chair Jared Grifoni said the city is proud to be part of the restoration.
âThe project is a great example of government inter-cooperation,â he said. âUnfortunately, as you see here, these mangroves have been disappearing for several years, but fortunately this restoration project will not only restore the ecosystem, but will create local jobs and protect real estate values ââby preserving natural resources. “
Once earth removal and culvert construction is complete, Worley and members of Conservancy will monitor the site to ensure restoration is successful.
âIt just takes a lot of persistence on these projects and having a lot of different people in groups working together to get it started,â Worley said. “It may take a while, in this case a long time, but if you persevere it will come true.”