Special Report: Sea Level Rise and Florida
Impact: Beach and Shore
Hot Spot: Marco Island
A Green Solution?
At the south end of Marco Island, just south of Naples, are 270 acres of mangroves that are dead or sickly. They are dying because of too much water. Man-made structures like roads have disrupted the natural flow of water through the mangroves, causing the mangrove acreage to fill up like a bathtub.
Mangroves, which thrive in saltwater, serve as natural barriers to storm surges. “We need natural defense for natural disasters,” says Chris Bergh, a scientist and the Nature Conservancy’s south Florida conservation director.
Beach dunes and oyster reefs are other examples of natural barriers to sea level rise. While in the past mangrove restoration was primarily done to protect animal and fish habitats, it’s increasingly seen as a cheaper way to protect against sea level rise.
Marco Island has decided to restore the mangrove forest in order to keep roads from flooding during storms and also to protect the wildlife habitats, says Robin Lewis, a mangrove expert hired to restore the Marco Island mangroves.
Lewis will build culverts beneath roads to allow water to drain. No replanting should be necessary, he says, as the mangroves will replant themselves.
The Marco Island project will cost $675,000 and take about 60 days. Typically, mangrove restoration costs about $50,000 per acre to $100,000 per acre, Lewis says.