A Florida island transformed into a resilient ecosystem for marine life to thrive

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WEST PALM BEACH, Florida. – Birds, oysters and even hermit crabs have a new home at the Palm Beach Resilient Island Project in Lake Worth Lagoon.

It’s not often you’ll find a new island, but that’s precisely what those who know West Palm Beach will find. It was built for animals and sea life to thrive.

While a group of volunteers usually worked hard for Carrier Global Corporation, they recently took a break to help plant 1,000 mangroves.

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“It’s actually quite easy,” said volunteer Korinti Recalde. “The sand is OK. There aren’t a lot of rocks, though. Yeah, it wasn’t that bad.”

It’s funny that Recalde said there was a meaning behind it.

“Being here today, planting these mangroves helps create a legacy for the company by engaging with the community,” Recalde said. “What’s also interesting is that our headquarters is only ten miles away, so it’s our own backyard.”

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Palm Beach County and The Nature Conservancy collaborated by constructing a small remnant island of one acre.

“We have a number of what we call interventions,” said Joseph Schmidt, climate project manager at The Nature Conservancy. “We have breakwaters. We have areas for oyster reefs, and we have an intertidal mangrove that we are planting today with volunteers from the shipping company.”

A raised island for bird nesting has also been created.

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“Essentially bringing all of these things together… providing different protection value and incorporating them together to create some sort of larger or more synergistic project,” Schmidt said.

The 20 mile long lagoon stretches from North Palm Beach to Ocean Ridge. Wildlife like manatees, green turtles and over 100 species of birds inhabit this estuary.

And while this island is unique in its construction, the county has built more than 20 others in the past 20 years. Schmidt calls the county a trailblazer.

Over the past century, development and dredging have significantly altered the landscape, replacing mangrove habitats and natural shorelines with levees and other man-made structures, and they would become dead zones.

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“There’s no oxygen in them. And so it was an opportunity to create habitat,” said Benji Studt, Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management Public Outreach Supervisor:

Studt said the county has completed more than 200 acres of habitat restoration. Now they can add one more.

With the mangroves planted and the island now complete, the volunteers hope the improvements will lead to a thriving ecosystem for all types of marine life.

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