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Florida Department of Environmental Protection
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www.dep.state.fl.us

 

A View of the Mangroves

As the sun rises on the mangrove forest, egrets rustle from their roosts to take flight while the caws of blue herons break the morning silence. The area teems with life above and below the water largely due to the cluster of mangroves lining the shore.

Mangroves provide shelter to a wide variety of animals, in addition to many other benefits that aren’t quite as well known. Mangrove trees and shrubs are Florida native species that grow in coastal intertidal zones consisting of a mixture of fresh and saltwater. They protect and stabilize the coastline and provide a habitat that supports a wide variety of fish and other wildlife. Mangroves are protected in Florida because of the important roles they play in protecting the environment and contributing to economic development.

“Many people may not realize that billions of dollars of Florida’s annual economy are indirectly generated by mangroves,” said Mark Langford, environmental consultant for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “Mangroves help protect species of fish and shellfish that are the foundation of Florida’s seafood industry – an industry that employs more than 100,000 people.”

In addition to wildlife protection, mangrove forests also help prevent or significantly reduce erosion caused by storm surges, currents, waves and tides.

“Their dense growth pattern and intertwining branches, roots, and trunks not only hold land and soil in place, but also create a cushion to reduce some of the wave and storm energy striking the shoreline. That is something even a seawall can’t do,” says Langford.

Mangroves also act as natural filters. They protect the area water quality by removing nutrients and pollutants from stormwater runoff before it reaches seagrass habitats and coral reefs. Mangroves also provide a home for filter feeding organisms such as oysters and barnacles, which also improve the water quality.

“Mangroves must be protected from irresponsible cutting and destruction because of the important roles they play in maintaining the overall quality of the environment,” said Langford. “However, DEP provides best practices for those homeowners wishing to trim mangroves in accordance with state law.”

Homeowners with a shoreline of 150 feet or less may trim mangroves located on their property within a fringe that is 50 feet wide or less and that are between 6 and 10 feet in height above the ground. These mangroves cannot be trimmed lower than 6 feet in height. Owners of property with a shoreline of more than 150 feet cannot trim more than 65 percent of the mangroves along their shoreline.

“Mangrove trimming beyond what is allowed in this exemption will require the services of a professional mangrove trimmer and may require a permit,” said Langford.

For more information or to ask questions about mangroves on your property, contact Pinellas County’s mangrove trimming program at 727-453-3385 or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at 813-470-5700 or dep.state.fl.us.