Mangrove wetlands provide important benefits by protecting communities from storm impacts, improving water quality, and supporting fish and wildlife. When strong hurricanes hit Jobos Bay Reserve in Puerto Rico and Rookery Bay Reserve in Florida in 2017, both Reserves identified a need to understand storm damage, recovery trends and the drivers of degradation for their mangrove habitat. A team of scientists and local staff from Florida and Puerto Rico worked together to better understand these needs and are now working to address them through the Mangrove Coast Collaborative. This research project will strengthen partnerships across the two reserves and provide tools and information that will help the Reserves and the local communities they serve better understand and protect mangrove-connected habitats.
The project team will begin by establishing a Project Advisory Committee composed of key project end users - including scientists, natural resource managers, and local municipality decision makers - who manage mangrove ecosystems or depend on their services. The team will regularly interact with Committee members to solicit feedback on research plans and refine project products. This three-year project will assess patterns of mangrove habitat health and degradation within both reserves over the last decade (2010 – 2020) using remote sensing, elevation data, and field work. These data will be used to develop models to examine the causes of mangrove degradation (including functional and/or structural loss) and assess how short and long-term disturbances impact the benefits provided by mangroves in each reserve community. Finally, the team will develop a decision-support framework for managers to integrate information on the causes of degradation, the impact to the local community, and the likelihood of natural recovery. Project updates and findings will be shared through a range of outreach activities, a lecture series, and a final symposium.
- Project Poster, NERRS Annual Meeting, Nov 2020