Tag Archives: mangroves

Protect Florida: Vote Yes on Amendment 1

On November 4th, 2014, Florida voters will head to the polls to cast their votes in order to decide the future of the state. Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, is an important initiative voters will decide on. If you like clean water, then we recommend voting yes.

Amendment 1 is our last chance to protect Florida’s fragile ecosystems. With climate change becoming more of a threat with each passing day, and the recent revelation that vertebrate populations have declined by more than 50% in just the last forty years, saving our planet and its plants and animals is something we can no longer wait for someone else to do. We the people must stand together, and by simply marking a ballot, we can choose to allocate more than $10 billion dollars to environmental conservation and water protection over the next 20 years, without any increase in taxes. Doing otherwise would be an irreparable act of negligence.

Since 2009, the Legislature has cut funding for land and water protection by 95%! Because our government seemingly does not find clean water all that important, citizens took matters into their own hands to get Amendment 1 on the ballot. Florida’s Water and Land Legacy was established, and within a year and a half, they received more than 700,000 certified signatures that allowed Amendment 1 to be placed on the November 4, 2014 ballot.

So what exactly will this Amendment do? According to the FAQS on the Amendment’s website, the Amendment will guarantee the following:

  • Restore, manage, and acquire lands necessary to protect Florida’s drinking water sources and protect the water quality in our rivers, lakes and streams;
  • Protect our beaches and shores;
  • Protect and restore the Everglades and other degraded natural systems and waterways;
  • Manage fish and wildlife habitat, protect forests and wetlands, and restore conservation lands that are an important part of Florida’s economy and quality of life;
  • Provide funding to manage existing state and local natural areas, parks, and trails for water supply, habitat and recreation.

The money that will allow this to happen will come from Florida’s excise tax on documents, or documentary stamp tax. This is an already established tax generated by documents necessary during the sale of real estate, and Amendment 1 will see to it that 33% of the funds raised by this tax will be used only for conservation purposes. This money will help Florida’s fragile ecosystems, and will combat both land and water pollution, helping to ensure clean and plentiful drinking water for this generation and those to come.

If this Amendment does not pass, the future of Florida and its inhabitants will be at stake. The future of clean drinking water, of our beaches, and of tourism will be uncertain. Will our children know the beauty of the Everglades, will they know of manatees and Key deer, will they be able to traverse trails and play in parks? Let’s answer these questions ourselves, with action, with our voices.

We can no longer rely on our legislators or representatives to do right by us and by the environment. We must do the checking and balancing.

It is up to us to protect our state, our ecosystem, and all of the inhabitants within it, whether they walk on two legs, four legs, or none. We must take action, and the easiest way to do that is to Vote Yes on Amendment 1 on November 4th, 2014.

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Read the Amendment in its entirety below: Continue reading Protect Florida: Vote Yes on Amendment 1

Marine Debris: In the Mangroves

More than just water moves in and out with the tides. If you walk along the coast at low tide, whether you are near the ocean or the intracoastal, the water will leave behind a troubling portrait of its health, as if asking for help or even mercy.

Moving with the currents is the trash that ends up in the waters, whether it originated directly from the beaches, from marine vessels, or from even further inland.

Below you will see a small snapshot of what is occurring in the mangrove ecosystem.

mangrove trash debris litter

This photo was taken along the mangrove boardwalk at Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex in Boca Raton. Each red rectangle shows a piece of trash that was deposited in the mangroves. In one small frame, we were able to capture nine pieces of trash.

You see a chunk of styrofoam in the top left corner, and aluminum cans and plastic bottles strewn about. These are some of the absolute worst things that can be thrown into the ocean because of their low decomposition rates. (It takes a small styrofoam cup about 50 years to decompose; 200 years for an aluminum can to decompose; 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose.)

More than likely these were deposited here indirectly, meaning that someone probably wasn’t sitting in the mangroves drinking beer and bottled water. These were pushed into the mangroves and left behind by the high tide.

The mangroves are home to many creatures, from birds to foxes, from crabs to spiders. They are safe houses for fish, crustaceans, and shellfish to reproduce. Snapper, snook, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, oyster, shrimp, and many other valuable marine species find their food amongst the mangroves. Pelicans and other coastal birds use the branches of the mangroves as their rookeries.

What would you do if your neighbor put his or her trash on your lawn, instead of in the proper receptacle? Even if it was just a couple of cans, or a plastic bottle? You wouldn’t stand for it, so why should we stand for this treatment of a valuable ecosystem?

Mangroves are important, fragile ecosystems that help protect coastal regions from erosion.  Mangrove roots naturally filter the water from pollutants, but in no way can they self-regulate the trash that accumulates there.

Poisoning the mangroves with human waste will lead to the imminent destruction of many already endangered species who call the mangroves home, such as the following:

  • American Crocodile
  • Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle
  • Atlantic Salt Marsh Snake
  • Barbados Yellow Warbler
  • Brown Pelican
  • Hawksbill Sea Turtle
  • Eastern Indigo Snake
  • Key Deer
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Southern Bald Eagle
  • West Indian Manatee

So… what can you do to help protect the mangroves?

While you will see the occasional soda can, most cans you will see are beer cans. This happens because many people are drinking on the beach or on their boats, and when they become drunk, they begin to give little regard to the environment (amongst other things). Before you start drinking, have a trash disposal plan. Make sure you bring bio-degradable trash bags with you to the beach or put some on your boat. If you have a cooler, put the empties in there so that when you return home, you can properly sort and dispose your recyclables.

To minimize plastic bottles in the mangroves, use a reusable water bottle that you will take home with you instead of throwing it into the abyss.

Abandon the out of sight, out of mind mentality. Nothing in this world just disappears, not your problems, and definitely not your trash.

Friends don’t let friends become enemies of the environment. If you see your friend engaging in behavior that is hazardous to the environment, say, “Hey, friend, why don’t you throw that can over here to me, and I’ll throw it away for you?” If you don’t, then you are guilty by association.

Think of the critters. Think of the baby chicks waiting for their parent to return to the nest with food, their cute little chirps, their eyes not yet open. Mama bird returns home, and as she goes to regurgitate the food into the hungry beaks of her chicklets, she chokes, she screams, she squawks. She falls over dead because she choked on a piece of trash, leaving her innocent little babies hungry and vulnerable to the mangrove predators.

 

Our lives will come and go, and our trash and litter will remain. Leave more to your legacy than plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Let’s all work to protect the mangroves and its inhabitants.

Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex

If you are looking for a fun, educational experience near the beach, and you love sea turtles, then you must check out Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex in Boca Raton, Florida.

Located on A1A across from Red Reef Park, Gumbo Limbo gives you an up-close look at what is going on under the sea and then some. The complex consists of a butterfly garden, an indoor nature center, classrooms, a turtle rehabilitation center, large outdoor aquariums, and a mangrove boardwalk. There is also a gift shop.The twenty-acre property is situated on the intracoastal, so whether you go through the butterfly garden or the mangrove boardwalk, you will be able to see the beautiful waterway.

The Shore-t Story

Who it is good for: The whole family

Cost: $5 suggested donation, they are a non-profit

Time to visit: One hour to three hours

Parking: Free onsite parking for the environmental complex only; no beach parking

Food: Vending machines dispense bottled water and canned gatorade; No picnicking allowed

*Tip* Park at Red Reef Park and walk across A1A if you plan on going to the beach (Parking is $16 weekdays, $18 on weekends and holidays). You can also park across from Red Reef Park at the Red Reef West Park, use the same entrance as the Red Reef Public Golf Course. Parking there is $2 an hour weekdays and $3 an hour on weekends. There is access from the parking lot to Gumbo Limbo’s boardwalk.

gumbo limbo complex entrance
Entrance to Gumbo Limbo from Red Reef Golf Course parking lot

The Nature Center

Throughout the indoor/outdoor nature center, you will see a variety of wonderful nature exhibits. There is a gopher tortoise exhibit, a butterfly nursery, local plants potted throughout, and other thought-provoking exhibits that focus on how humans impact the environment.

The Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center

One of the greatest things about Gumbo Limbo is the work that they do in terms of sea turtle rehabilitation and conservation. In 2010, their new rehabilitation center opened, a state-of-the art facility that provides refuge for sick and injured sea turtles.

Talk to any of the volunteers or employees, and they will gladly teach you about all of the turtle patients receiving treatment. There is even a window where you can watch a turtle receive treatment. I witnessed a turtle receiving IV fluids. It is heartbreaking to see turtles missing parts of their shell due to boat collision accidents, or their bodies covered in fibropapillomatosis. However, it is wonderful that places such as this exist to offer these sea turtles a second chance.

*Tip* No flash photography is allowed in the sea turtle rehabilitation facility.

 

Sea Tanks

The newest additions to Gumbo Limbo are their sea tanks. There are four large tanks, each of which represents a different coastal ecosystem. Two shallow tanks are in one pavilion, and two large tanks are in an adjacent pavilion.

One shallow tank represents a mangrove ecosystem, and the other a nearshore reef. In this room you will see stingrays cruise by, fish, and other sea surprises!

In the pavilion with the large tanks, there is a tropical coral reef tank and a shipwreck tank! You can marvel at the beautiful colors of the coral reef, or gasp when a baby shark swims up to the glass right in front of you. This is a great way to show kids what is going on beneath the waves. A corner of the shipwreck tank has a step for little kids to use so that they can easily peek through the glass.

*Tip* Visit Red Reef Park in the morning and enjoy the beach and artificial reef, and then walk to Gumbo Limbo during the heat of the day.

The Mangrove Boardwalk

The boardwalk at Gumbo Limbo is a peaceful, shaded quarter-mile path that takes you through the mystical mangroves. Go slowly, tread quietly, and you will be surprised at the abundance and diversity of wildlife to see.

 

There are many amazing plants throughout the boardwalk as well, from mangroves to the eponymous gumbo limbos, from strangler figs to cabbage palms.

 

One of the most incredible things about the boardwalk is the forty-foot tall observation tower that takes you above the coastal hammock to give you a bird’s eye view of surrounding Boca Raton.

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Overall, Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex is a great day trip whether you are alone, a couple, or a family. When you enter the hammock boardwalk you quickly forget that you are in the heart of coastal Boca Raton.

To learn more about Gumbo Limbo or to volunteer, visit their website.

Find out about the problems we discovered on our walk along the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Hammock boardwalk.