Originally written for Midtown Miami Magazine.
Mangrove forests are the key to reducing climate changing carbon dioxide and protecting us from storm damage. So why don't we value mangroves more?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Managing climate change is going to take managing these precious “Blue Carbon” ecosystems.
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.
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.
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.