Century long cycle of hurricanes help move Florida’s Mangroves north:  “Part of the puzzle explained by centuries of history”

Century long cycle of hurricanes help move Florida’s Mangroves north: “Part of the puzzle explained by centuries of history”

Photo: WJXT

“Researchers have observed an increase in mangrove trees in southern Amelia Island, Florida, in recent years. This is well north of the plant’s typical cold-sensitive habitat.

Historically, mangroves have been limited to southern Florida. However, they are now increasing along the temperate zones farther north, from St. Johns to Nassau Counties.

This migration pattern is related to warmer winters and hurricanes. Warmer winters allow mangroves to survive further north, while hurricanes help to disperse their seeds.

A survey conducted by Dr. Candy Feller of the Smithsonian Institute in 2004 found no mangroves along the southern tip of Amelia Island. However, a return visit to the same site in 2017 found mangroves over six feet tall. In May 2023, the same trees had grown to nine feet tall and spread 20 feet wide.

Feller links this expansion to Hurricanes Frances and Jeanie, which hit Florida in 2004. These hurricanes sent wave energy right up the east coast, just when mangrove plant propagation was at peak season. This helped to disperse mangrove seeds throughout the region.

Hurricanes are an efficient mechanism for dispersing mangrove propagules. Thousands of propagules were washed ashore in Northeast Florida after Hurricane Ian in 2022.

Hurricanes are nothing new so why didn’t the plants establish locally decades ago? 

The answer is that freezes have kept the species in check. In the past, freezes would periodically kill off mangroves that had migrated too far north…”

— Mark Collins, Meteorologist, News4Jax

Image: A Slide from Dr. Candy Feller’s study showing cycles of hard frosts and hurricanes

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“Tiny Forests With Big Benefits”

“Tiny Forests With Big Benefits”

Photo: Cassandra Klos for The New York Times

“The tiny forest lives atop an old landfill in the city of Cambridge, Mass. Though it is still a baby, it’s already acting quite a bit older than its actual age, which is just shy of 2.

Its aspens are growing at twice the speed normally expected, with fragrant sumac and tulip trees racing to catch up. It has absorbed storm water without washing out, suppressed many weeds and stayed lush throughout last year’s drought. The little forest managed all this because of its enriched soil and density, and despite its diminutive size: 1,400 native shrubs and saplings, thriving in an area roughly the size of a basketball court.

It is part of a sweeping movement that is transforming dusty highway shoulders, parking lots, schoolyards and junkyards worldwide. Tiny forests have been planted across Europe, in Africa, throughout Asia and in South America, Russia and the Middle East. India has hundreds, and Japan, where it all began, has thousands.

Now tiny forests are slowly but steadily appearing in the United States. In recent years, they’ve been planted alongside a corrections facility on the Yakama reservation in Washington, in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park and in Cambridge, where the forest is one of the first of its kind in the Northeast.

‘It’s just phenomenal,’ said Andrew Putnam, superintendent of urban forestry and landscapes for the city of Cambridge, on a recent visit to the forest, which was planted in the fall of 2021 in Danehy Park, a green space built atop the former city landfill. As dragonflies and white butterflies floated about, Mr. Putnam noted that within a few years, many of the now 14-foot saplings would be as tall as telephone poles and the forest would be self-sufficient…

‘This isn’t just a simple tree-planting method,’ said Katherine Pakradouni, a native plant horticulturist who oversaw the forest planting in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. ‘This is about a whole system of ecology that supports all manner of life, both above and below ground’…”

— Cara Buckley, New York Times

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Eckerd College Designates 9 New Wildlife Habitats

Eckerd College Designates 9 New Wildlife Habitats

Photo: Gabber

“Soon, signs like these — provided by the National Wildlife Federation to gardens that provide food, water, shelter, and breeding grounds to local wildlife — will be installed at nine new wildlife habitats on the campus of Eckerd College. The certification process is open to grounds of any size, from college campuses to backyard gardens.

When an Eckerd College student approached Grounds Manager Darla Ostenson about collaborating on a project to improve wildlife habitats for snakes on campus, she had a strong reaction.

She recalls: ‘I thought, snake habitat?! And then I thought: Yes! Somebody pinch me!’

For Ostenson, a landscape manager with a degree in conservation biology, this was a indeed a dream project. And further evidence that she’d landed in a place where animals, plants, and people could come together in ways that were not only sustainable, but educational.

New Wildlife Habitats

This spring, another eco-friendly landscaping project came to fruition: Eckerd designated nine areas across its campus as wildlife habitat, certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

Certification requires applicants to demonstrate that their habitat supplies food, water, cover, and breeding grounds for animals such as birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. It also calls for sustainable practices, such as using native plants or organic methods of pest management, for the habitat. The National Wildlife Federation states that 22,513 ‘wildlife gardens’ have been created through its certification process, which is open to all kinds of sites from Eckerd’s 188-acre campus to backyard gardens.

According to Ostenson, the process was simple. After surveying prospective habitats and gaining approval from Eckerd’s Environmental Affairs Committee, she was able to input the information directly to the National Wildlife Federation’s website. Eckerd’s student government and Office of Sustainability covered the certification fees, which defrays the cost of a stylish sign you can place in your habitat.

In spring 2023, a pair of Great Horned owls nested in a pine tree on Eckerd College’s campus, helping to inspire the idea of habitat certification for this and other areas of campus.

Eckerd’s newly certified habitats span a range of types, from meadow-like native flower gardens, to ponds fringed with aquatic plants, to pine groves. Some high-profile visitors have recently put one of the new habitats on the map: a pair of nesting great horned owls…”

— Amanda Hagood, The Gabber

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State awards $1.8 million to Rainbow River Restoration Project

State awards $1.8 million to Rainbow River Restoration Project

Photo: Sean Arnold, Riverland News

“A pilot project to remove muck and invasive plants in the lower Rainbow River was awarded a $1.8 million grant in the latest Florida budget signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 15.

The Rainbow River Restoration Project was launched by Art Jones and his nonprofit, One Rake at a Time, Inc., to vacuum and scoop large mats of algae and invasive hydrilla and plant native eelgrass in the hopes that the eelgrass beds can outcompete the hydrilla and eliminate the need to deploy herbicides.

Jones said the grant will fund the completion of a survey to determine the scope of the muck in the lower 25 acres of the river. It will also contribute to the design of a work plan to remove the muck and debris and the water testing process. He said the survey is 80 percent finished and is due to be completed within the next month. The survey is required for additional government assistance in the five-year project…

Jones said the river has been declining since at least the time when phosphate mining descended into the area. ‘People have just taken from the river, leaving whatever mess they made for others to clean up,’ he said. ‘It’s time to give back.’

Springs watch dogs such as the Florida Springs Council report that most of the river’s deterioration is due to increased nitrate concentration from agricultural runoff. Jones said even if the sources of the problem were fixed tomorrow, the muck would remain. ‘Those things will help in the future and are in process now, but it will take years to accomplish,’ he said. ‘We need to start cleaning up the river now, at the same time – a two-prong approach. This grant, while not a magic wand, is at least a start.’

Jones hosts monthly meetings on the Rainbow River Restoration Project at Holy Faith Episcopal in Dunnellon.

Visit OneRakeataTime.org to learn more about the restoration project and volunteering opportunities.”

— Sean Arnold, Riverland News

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“The English Property forest gets closer to Florida Forever’s 2024 buy list”

“The English Property forest gets closer to Florida Forever’s 2024 buy list”

Photo: Patricia Moynihan / WFSU Public Media

“Paul Russell Road is one of several that bisects the English property forest

A plan to save part of the English Forest in Tallahassee from development has moved a step closer. The Acquisition and Restoration Council of Florida Forever unanimously voted to approve the English Forest Preserve Project. Support from the Tallahassee City Commission, and other local entities helped secure the vote.

The Council expressed concern about the preservation plan—noting that it only covers part of the property and not all of the original 600 acres that was rezoned for mixed-use development last year. Despite those reservations, the council decided the environmental and archaeological importance of the property was enough to approve the plan for further evaluation.

‘We have evidence that there’s a good pattern of occupation,’ said Mary Glowacki of the Panhandle Archaeological Society. She says the area was occupied by Paleo-Indian peoples.

‘And the fact Mr. English himself collected a lot of lithic material that dates to that time period, there should be something out there.’

Glowacki said the potential for an archaeological discovery is likely, but not without the financial backing of Florida Forever.

‘It would be unfortunate the way the development could proceed if the property didn’t get brought under ARC,’ she said. ‘The city and the county don’t have a rigorous review program for cultural resources ahead of development, so we might jeopardize finding out more about cultural resources if that’s the case…’

The acquisition of the land by Florida Forever is not a done deal. The property must now undergo further evaluation, and a second vote is set for later this year to determine if the project will earn a spot on Florida Forever’s 2024 priority list.”

— Alexis Rejouis, WFSU

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“Happy Pollinator Week from Deering Estate”

“Happy Pollinator Week from Deering Estate”

Photo: Butterfly Orchid, David Lotker

“Deering Estate is proud to be part of Miami-Dade County’s efforts to support our native pollinators. Pollinators are essential to our lives, 75% of the world’s flowering plants and 35% of the world’s crops rely on pollinators. What that means is a lot of the food found in your local supermarket needed a pollinator. Now more than ever we all need to play an active role in supporting our pollinators as they are facing significant threats. A 2017 report by the Center of Biological Diversity found that 25% of native bee species are imperiled in the United States and worldwide more than 50% of native bee species are in decline.

That is why Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces and Deering Estate are leading the effort to increase native pollinator habitat in urban green spaces and educate the public that they can do the same at home…

Current and future projects

In 2023 as parts of the Parks for Pollinators initiative we have commenced our Propagation Station and Native Pollinator Nursery Area inside of the estate. This will serve as both as an exhibit on native pollinator plants, an educational area to conduct botanical workshops and field trips, and as an outdoor laboratory to experiment techniques on propagation and growth with our research interns. We hope to grow over 40 species of native pollinator plants with a focus on the plants historically found in our natural areas.

Deering Estate is hosting and participating in programs and events for our community to learn and experience the magic of native pollinators. 22, August 26 and September 23…

Park and Recreation Month is celebrated in July to promote building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks. This year’s theme “Where Community Grows” celebrates the vital role park and recreation professionals play in bringing people together, providing essential services and fostering the growth of our communities.

Make sure to check out our ‘Plant an Orchid, Save a Bee’ event on Saturday, July 15th where we will have Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden botanists and UF/IFAS Extension Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program agents teaching you how to plant and care of native orchids and how to build your own pollinator hotel to take home! For more information, please visit the website. ”

— Ana Alexandra Rojas, MS Conservation and Research Specialist

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