Preserving Blue Carbon Ecosystems in a Red State

Originally written for Midtown Miami Magazine.

With the election resulting in a turn towards Donald Trump, the environmental landscape is about to become drastically altered.

 

Already, Trump is making moves to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), the federal agency working towards climate change action. His first move has been to place Myron Ebell, an industry lobbyist, in a position to lead the EPA transition team.

 

Like Trump, Ebell is a climate change skeptic. As the Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) he has lead campaigns attempting to convince the American public that climate science is uncertain.

And as for carbon dioxide, it isn’t smog or smoke, it’s what we breathe out and plants breathe in. They call it pollution. We call it life.
— CEI video

 

The Facts About Climate Change

The fact is carbon dioxide is a major driver of climate change. The amount of carbon that we are forcing into the environment is at an all-time high and is causing the climate to change faster than it ever has in the history of the planet.

CO2 Climate Change_Olapicreative.jpg

 

With such drastic change, comes the threat of increased poverty, flooded cities, destroyed infrastructure, and massive die-offs within the animal kingdom.  Our beloved Miami will be one of the first places in the country to experience these effects.

 

Photo credit: @artstract

Photo credit: @artstract

 

Can Mangroves Save the Day?

The biggest ally in the fight against climate change is nature.  Nature can provide up to 30 percent of the mitigation action needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius on average.

 

In the coastal areas of Biscayne Bay lies one of the biggest consumers of carbon: mangroves.  These mangrove communities provide shelter for native and migratory birds, serve as nurseries for commercial fish, stabilize our shores, and are natural buffers protecting Miami from waves, flooding and storm surges.

Climate Change Mangroves_olapicreative

They also hold a lot of carbon – a mangrove forest, for example, can store up to 10 times as much carbon as a land-based forest.

 

This is because marine and coastal ecosystems like mangroves, sea grasses, and tidal marshes naturally store carbon in the low-oxygen sediment below their roots. Left undisturbed, this “Blue Carbon” (carbon found in the ocean) can be stored for centuries to millennia.

 

Climate Change Young Mangrove_olapicreative

 

Managing climate change is going to take managing these precious “Blue Carbon” ecosystems.

 

Paper Laws

Since 1996, the  Florida State Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act has protected mangroves from unpermitted removal and trimming.  Just because it’s written down on paper, though, doesn’t mean it is being monitored.

 

In June 2015, contractors hired by the City of Miami were found to have cleared approximately 2,000 square feet of red and black mangroves next to the Marine Stadium without a permit. The reason: they were readying the area for the International Boat Show.

 

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, El Nuevo Herald staff

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, El Nuevo Herald staff

Considering Trump’s stance on the environment, we are likely to see more of this de-valuing of “Blue Carbon” ecosystems.

 

 

MUVE to Restore Mangroves

Want to do your part to give back to nature?  Restore native coastal habitats like mangrove forests with MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment). The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science volunteer based program runs several citizen science programs at their Virginia Key North Point restoration site.

 

Photo credit: MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment)

Photo credit: MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment)

Taking place on the 2nd Saturday of each month, their Citizen Science Workdays are easy ways you can make an immediate impact on "Blue Carbon" ecosystems in one of the densest urban areas in the country.

 

Climate change is reshaping Miami but MUVE projects show us that we can coexist in nature and reap the benefits that urban wild areas provide.
 

Five reasons to value nature:

  1. Reduced atmospheric carbon

  2. Increased property values

  3. Lowered electric bills

  4. More tranquility and less noise

  5. More encounters with wildlife

 

If you're in south Florida, be sure to volunteer with MUVE 

Photo credit: MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment)

Photo credit: MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment)