Miami's Coast Is Getting A Natural Face-Lift

Mar 18, 2015

The dunes on Miami Beach that have been restored as a natural defense against sea level rise.
Credit Lisann Ramos

Several South Florida municipalities have been making efforts in coastal restoration.

The city of Miami approved major projects on that front in 2010. It did so in an attempt to implement natural solutions to sea-level rise. 

Conservationists are in the process of removing invasive plant species in beach dunes that cause coastline erosion. They are also installing plants that allow dunes to grow and better absorb water.

Margarita Wells, environmental resources manager for Miami Beach, says, “When it comes to sea-level rise, the dunes attract sand and they start to build up in height so we’ve seen a change in height of about 10 feet in some areas since the dunes were first planted here."

The project is also being implemented in Virginia Key, which will be opening as a public beach later this year. 

Virginia Key before and after. On the top is the coastline from a year ago. On the bottom is the current coastline. The invasive plants surrounding the coast were replaced with the sea oats showed on the bottom.
Credit Lisann Ramos

"Waves that are coming from the ocean will have to pass through and over [the dunes] before they can get across Biscayne Bay to Downtown Miami and Brickell," said Chris Bergh, the South Florida director of the Nature Conservancy.

Last year the coast was removed of its invasive Australian pine and replaced with sea oats. Native plants are better equipped to break down waves.

They also allow more space for beachgoers and the key’s turtle habitats. 

The oats were planted by volunteers gathered through the Frost Museum of Science. Fernando Bretos is with the museum.

“There was a master plan that was approved in 2010 by the city of Miami and all of the stakeholders involved that Virginia Key be a place for everybody. So that conservationists, bird watchers, hikers, anyone can use this place," said Bretos.

The museum and other environmental groups will continue to monitor the restoration projects.