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West Lake Park and Mangrove Mania
by Dia Hitt -- January 9th, 2015

If you build it, will they come?

Eventually these mangroves will fill in all the channels in West Lake Park.

Eventually these mangroves will fill in all the channels in West Lake Park.

This is a question that restoration ecologists struggle with on every project. Will their efforts bring back the animals, plants, and an improved ecosystem? Our first stop, West Lake Park, answered this question with their successful mangrove restoration. They found that if conditions are right then mangrove seedlings, affectionately referred to as skinny jalapenos, will plant themselves.

So what are these conditions? Our tour guide made it seem so simple. If you get the land grade right as well as the hydrology then mangrove growth will start almost immediately. Research tells us the grade needed for Florida mangroves but the issue of hydrology remains. Mangroves require tidal influx–too much they flood, too little they die. So getting the water right is important. This was a common theme throughout the trip. In fact, this trip felt a little like Goldilocks and the three bears. Restoration is the result of getting things juuuuust right.

Our guide describing the restoration efforts of West Lake Park

Our guide describing the restoration efforts of West Lake Park

After the boat tour, we talked about mangrove adaptations such as the white mangroves’ suicide leaf, which expels excess salt. We licked leaves for fun and learned about West Lake Park’s future plans. These include allowing the mangroves to fill in the remaining kayak paths and continuing to work with the local county on future restoration projects. As we rode the boat and learned about mangroves, we watched herons fly and saw sunning cormorants; giving us our answer-yes. If you build it, they will come.

For information on the West Lake Project, click here: West Lake Project

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