By David Ritz, ORCA President 

and Kathleen A. Baxter, President of Coastal Planting Service, Inc. 

 


With more than 50 known varieties of Mangrove Trees found around the world, there are only three mangrove tree species found in Florida. All of which can be found within the waterways of Ocean Reef creating a beautiful home for an array of wildlife.

 

Mangrove trees, as most of us know, are protected under Florida Law. As mangrove tree leaves fall into the water and sink to the bottom, they begin to decay and turn into what is called detritus. A mold then forms on these decaying leaves, or detritus, and creates what can be called "the first link in our food chain". This phenomenon is precisely why Mangrove trees are so protected.

 

Not only are mangrove trees important for creating detritus, they are important to the numerous species of bird and aquatic life that call them home. The root systems of mangrove trees have the ability to clarify water by filtering the toxins created by upland activities, as well as the ability to live in a saline environment by filtering the salt found in brackish waters. All of the above provide a perfect habitat for nearly all sport fish at some time of their lives, hunting grounds for sharks, and a sanctuary for schools of bait fish. Not to mention our manatee, as they are frequently seen eating leaves that hang into or over the water at high tide.

 

Fortunately, the 1996 Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act allows specifically licensed personnel to trim these trees under exact specifications on a site by site basis. ORCA and others have obtained these permits for the past 20 years or so. Recently, ORCA obtained a new trimming permit that allows trimming on the ocean side of the community, which was previously not allowed. Russ Post was instrumental in obtaining this new permit and contributed over $140,000 while working with ORCA’s lobbyist. The effort took several years to complete.

 

Due to the mangrove trees and their root systems, Ocean Reef is considered a stable and environmentally productive location; not to mention a benefit to our local economy, home to a variety of wonderful species, and an enjoyment for our waterfront homeowners.