Mangrove Protections on the Suncoast
Mangroves provide an essential nursery habitat for many aquatic species and define our remaining natural shoreline. Florida’s native mangroves are crucial in filtering water and shielding the land from the impacts of storms and hurricanes. When healthy mangroves are present in adequate numbers, these trees can prevent erosion and minimize flood damage. Additionally, mangroves provide an ideal breeding ground for diverse aquatic life. Mangroves are vulnerable ecosystems, though, due to sea level rise, hydrologic modification, and development. In spite of their importance, we have lost thousands of acres of mangroves in the Sarasota Bay estuary as increasing development replaced these saltwater wetlands with fill, seawalls and turfgrass. A mapping project showed that over 100 miles of seawalls and other hardened shorelines dominate the Sarasota Bay watershed.
In addition to the increase in hardened shorelines, we are concerned about illegal mangrove trimming, as it contributes to significant nitrogen inputs leading to algal blooms in the area, and a reduction of our resilience in the face of extreme weather. Mangrove protection regulations have stopped many law violations tracked by Suncoast Waterkeeper, but we must proactively expand our approach to protect the remaining mangrove forests. Otherwise, we run the risk of loosing our mangroves which would have an extreme negative impact on local ecology and resiliency. We can't have our eyes on the entire coastline, which is why we need the help of visitors and residents like you!
Suncoast Waterkeeper plans to take action in four ways to protect mangroves:
- Petition Sarasota and Manatee Counties to seek approval from the State to administer their own stronger mangrove protections.
- Engage the public with a citizen's monitoring through our Eyes on the Suncoast program.
- Press the State to improve their enforcement efforts which have been sidelined due to a lack of resources.
- Initiate responsible legal action for dredge and fill violations that damage and destroy our mangroves using the citizens suit provisions of the Clean Water Act when regulators fail to enforce the law.
- Institute a new annual survey program of mangroves called Mangrove Rangers.