As you motor around the Indian River Lagoon as a 321 Boat Club member, you’re likely to meet a few locals. In an effort to educate our members about the lagoon, spark conversations about conservation and generally turn you into the best tour guide your family has ever seen, our Meet the Locals series moves onto one of the most important members of the lagoon family: Mangroves. Mangrove marshes are present in many areas of the Indian River Lagoon and provide a vital service to our beloved estuary.
What Are Mangroves?
Mangroves are a type of shrub that grow in and near shallow, brackish waters. There are three different types of mangroves plants native to Florida: Red, Black, and White Mangroves. However a mangrove is more of a habitat than it is a plant in and of itself. They are comprised of thick, interlacing roots that reach into the muddy waters of the lagoon. These distinctive roots are known as prop roots and are home to many fish, birds, and reptiles that call the Indian River Lagoon Home. These plants are unique because they use their roots and leaves to remove salt from the coastal waters and can survive being flooded multiple times each day when the tide ebbs and flows all while surviving in the sweltering Florida sun.
Why Are Mangroves So Important to the Ecosystem
Mangroves are the protectors of the Indian River Lagoon in many different aspects. Their tangled roots provide shelter for small fish and wildlife from predators. The mass slows the flow of water which makes them perfect nurseries for fish and water dwelling birds, and helps to bolster populations of local fish. Because this area is such a safe haven, it is also a prime spot to snack. Fish and birds feast on the bugs, smaller fish, and vegetation that entwines with mangrove marshes. Mangroves are important for the earth as well. The system of roots reinforce the coastlines by slowing the lagoon, allowing sediment to build and prevent erosion from currents, waves, tides, and especially storm surges. Without mangroves there is no telling what the Indian River Lagoon would look like, much less the whole coast of Florida as these intricate ecosystems make up most of the State’s intercoastal waterways.
Protecting Mangrove Marshes
As a 321 Boat Club member, and a citizen of Florida, it is our duty to protect our waterways and make sure we do everything we can to prevent any harm from befalling the protectors of the Lagoon. By being aware of the important role mangroves play in the ecosystem of the Indian River Lagoon, you are on your way to helping keep the population healthy. When you are cruising around on one of the 321 Boat Club fleet, make sure to watch for them. If you are ever near mangroves, you will be near land, so at the risk of damaging yourself, the mangroves, and the boat, steer clear. However, bringing a set of binoculars on your trip can help you see egrets, herons, and many other beautiful birds up close without getting too close. The biggest threat to mangroves is pollution. Garbage that gets tangled in the roots poses a threat to the wildlife that calls these shrubs home. Make sure that you pack out all the waste that you pack in when you schedule your boat excursion. The pollutants that find their way into the lagoon from fertilized lawns, roadways, and leaking boats can also kill off a mangrove population even. Make sure that if you do fertilize your lawn that you do so properly and do your best to make sure that your vehicles are free of leaks and running smoothly. As for our fleet, you’ll never have to worry about them. One of the perks of boat club membership is that we fully maintain and service all of our boats to ensure they are safe to drive, and safe for the health of the Indian River Lagoon