Mangroves: More Valuable Than They Look - 07.14.2015
 Guest panelists
Historically mangroves have been seen as useless swampland infested with mosquitoes that should be developed on. But current research is showing us that mangroves are more useful to our everyday lives than we thought, providing valuable ecosystem services that economically benefit Miami.

Dr. Tiffany Troxler, Wetland Ecologist in the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University, Dr. Mahadev Bhat, Professor of Natural Resource Economics in the Earth and Environment Department at Florida International University, and Laura Tellez, Program Director of Citizens for a Better South Florida served as guest panelists at COSEE Florida's science cafe at Gramps in Wynwood.

Dr. Troxler started off the conversation with a detailed introduction to all the ecosystem services Miami enjoys from its mangroves. Such as filtering runoff so that coral doesn’t get buried by sediment, improving water quality and protecting our aquifers, supporting fisheries, protecting land against flooding, and trapping carbon (which is also known as carbon sequestration). Dr. Troxler also informed us of the important protection mangroves provide Miami during times of hurricane storm surge. This protection saves lives and property.

Dr. Bhat then followed up by focusing on the economic impacts of only the carbon sequestration. The Everglades alone has over 144,447 hectares of mangroves. Dr. Bhat estimates that the cost of carbon can be anywhere between $2,415 to $29,671 per hectare of mangrove. The large range is primarily due to the fact that there isn’t a market for carbon yet in the United States. However, even with this large range that means that the Everglades stores enough carbon to provide anywhere between $348 million to $4.3 billion in ecosystem services. And this is only carbon storage; this estimate does not include the other ecosystem services Dr. Troxler mentioned earlier nor does it include the other mangrove habitats that surround Miami.

The panel was able to wrap up with providing ways that people can get involved to help protect and restore the mangrove habitat in south Florida. This is particularly important because on Friday June 26th, just four days before science café, mangroves were illegally cut down by the City of Miami along 300 feet of shoreline on Virginia Key to make way for the boat show. Laura Tellez from Citizens for a Better South Florida told us of the 5,800 trees they have planted in the past eight years and all the events they hold to get Miamians involved.

We also had a special guest, Elizabeth Lago, from MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment) Miami tell us about the great work they do on Virginia Key restoring beach shoreline back to it’s native ecosystem. Along with the work they’ve done with school children to get them involved with planting and protecting mangroves.

If you would like to get involved in planting mangroves and trees or beach clean ups, check out Citizens for a Better South Florida and MUVE Miami.

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