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Mangroves are vital to the SWFL ecosystem, coastal protection and carbon reduction

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Mangroves are not only emblematic of the coastal beauty of Southwest Florida, but they are also the first line of defense against rising seas and storms.

FGCU’s The Water School researchers began studying these mangroves shortly after Hurricane Irma in 2017 to see how the area recovered from the storm.

Just in the past few weeks, they’ve been back on the site to see how it’s changed since then.

Dr. Win Everham, is a professor of ecology and environmental studies. He said, “It’s wet, it’s muddy. The anti-roots make it difficult to move through there. There are always spiders.”

While the mangrove plot may not be suitable for the uninitiated, for Everham and Brian Bovard, Ph.D. This outdoor classroom is both beautiful and meaningful.

Bovard is the program coordinator and assistant professor in the Department of Ecology & Environmental Studies at FGCU.

“We’re doing a long-term study of mangroves to see how they actually respond to things like sea level rise, storm impacts, storm surge, things like that,” he said. ”
The duo and their students study how these mangroves grow and change over time. ”

Everham went on to explain, “This is the first time we’ve gone back and resampled the entire forest in an organized way to get a real sense of how the forest is growing again. On the surface it looks great, you know that when you come out the next day after a storm it looks horrible and devastating, but it’s not the first storm these mangroves have seen. . So they can sprout again, they have babies underneath them growing back. ”

The beauty of resilience serves as a reminder of why it is so important to protect these mangroves.

“They have certainly experienced hurricanes through evolutionary time,” he adds, “They haven’t experienced human stressors in all that time. So we’re changing freshwater flows, we’re changing the tides in different places in our landscape. We are introducing alien species unknowingly, we are increasing the amount of chemical pollution that is spilling out of our roads, all of which is adding stress to critically important forests. this weight. “

The way they see it, forests are important to our economy and well-being, because they not only act as protection, as a physical barrier, but they also help offset carbon emissions. that we release into the atmosphere.

When they measure mangroves, it’s not as simple as measuring height.

Everham and Bovard used a special ruler to measure around it. This diameter tape tells the researchers the thickness of the tree and in turn, by comparing it with the average tree size, they can determine how much carbon is being released.

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https://www.winknews.com/2022/02/18/mangroves-crucial-to-swfl-ecosystem-protecting-shorelines-and-reduce-carbon/ Mangroves are vital to the SWFL ecosystem, coastal protection and carbon reduction

Tom Vazquez

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