Florida's coastal savior: The benefits of mangroves
Mangroves are incredibly beneficial to Florida's environment, and they wear a lot of proverbial hats. Mangroves play a critical role in a lot of marine ecosystems: they filter the water, act as a nursery habitat, and maintain healthy biodiversity.
Mangroves also protect Southwest Florida’s coastlines from storm surge and other harmful impacts from major storms and hurricanes.
David Outerbridge is a sustainable food systems and natural resources agent for UF/IFAS Extension in Lee County.
He’s originally from Bermuda, and saw first-hand what happens to a coastal region that loses its mangroves.
“There was an area in Bermuda where they cut down all the mangroves," said Outerbridge. "So, the first thing that happens is there was subsidence. The land sunk into the ocean.”
He adds that the same thing would happen if there was a massive loss of mangroves in Southwest Florida, and that it would also completely change the way water moves around the coast.
“It would be detrimental to Florida's coast as we know them," said Outerbridge. "Now, I'm not saying that new ecosystems and things wouldn't form, but, as we know it now, it would really affect a lot of our built environments as well as other contingent ecosystems.”
When it comes to Hurricanes, Outerbridge notes a recent example with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
“If you look at Pine Island, I went to go and review land with all the farmers out there after the storm, and everywhere on the north of the island has a huge belt of mangroves, [which] didn't really get much storm surge," said Outerbridge.
"But in those little pockets, like St. James City, there was quite a lot of storm surge that came in. So, they're really important in protecting the coast from waves.”
Pruning of all mangrove species is regulated under the Mangrove Act by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection due to their significance. That includes personal homes and property.
Outerbridge has this advice if you’re wanting to trim back your mangrove trees:
“Having mangroves there is going to benefit you more than it's going to be a detriment to your life," said Outerbridge.
He adds that mangroves could also be a benefit for your bank account, too.
“Having a mature mangrove tree on your property has a lot of value," said Outerbridge.
"I mean, if you think about 20-30 years of growth, that's an immense amount of value. And if we want a mature landscape a mangrove can add to that.”
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