Guest post by Nicolas Lama
In the heart of South Florida, mangrove forests are characteristic of coastline scenery. While many people may not even think twice when passing these ecosystems while biking down a beach road or kayaking atop glassy waters, mangroves hold incredible environmental value, a value that is being threatened by human activity around the world today.
By some estimates, more than 50 percent of the world's mangrove forests were destroyed by the end of the 20th century, and half of those that remain are in poor condition. Mangrove forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world, and the loss of mangroves is rampant across the globe.
In South Florida, we have an estimated 469,000 acres of mangrove forests that contribute to the overall health of the state's coastal zone. From securing and protecting coastlines, to serving as homes for hundreds of marine and land species, to capturing tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with their immense carbon-storing abilities, mangroves and mangrove forests are key environmental beauties.
Mangroves also have the lesser-known, incredible ability to improve the water quality of their ecosystem. Their roots hold onto sediments which reduces erosion and leads to better water quality. They can also absorb nutrients from runoff that could potentially cause harmful algal blooms offshore, an increasingly big problem here in South Florida. Amazingly, both coral reefs and seagrass beds are reliant on the water purifying ability of nearby mangrove forests to keep the water clear and healthy.
However, despite their known environmental benefits and impact, mangroves still face the imminent threat of destruction from human action around the world. Human greed continues to devastate mangrove ecosystems, and if we do not stop our current courses of action now, mangroves as we know them may become extinct. From damage from plastic and agricultural pollution to being cleared for coastal development, mangroves continue to be destroyed at an alarming rate, and it is up to us to change this.
Bringing awareness to this issue is the first step to finding a solution. In February 2019, I founded my own environmental organization, The Grove Project, dedicated to helping conserve South Florida’s mangrove ecosystems. Through educating others about the importance of mangrove ecosystems and raising awareness about the threats they face, we hope to foster a community of environmental consciousness to help conserve our beautiful natural wonders. Because of their incredible water filtering abilities, the quality of the water that surrounds mangroves should be very good. Thus, using the resources from EarthEcho International, The Grove Project has committed to monitoring a local body of water, Lake Worth Lagoon, that is surrounded by mangrove forests every month in order to insure that this water quality stays clean and healthy and is not affected by human behavior. You can visit our website for updates and more information at https://groveproject.wixsite.com/thegroveproject.
Together, we can teach everyone about the importance of mangrove ecosystems in South Florida and around the world in hopes to save the ones we have left, before it is too late.
Editor’s Note: Nicolas Lama is a 2019 EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassador, a group of young leaders working to engage their communities in water quality monitoring and conservation efforts while increasing their knowledge of water science and gaining skills to expand their work in this field. Nicolas is also the founder of The Grove Project and is an advocate for the preservation of mangrove ecosystems in south Florida. To learn how you can join Nicolas in taking action to protect waterways in your community, check out the EarthEcho Water Challenge Action Portal.