Environmental students study affects of weather on FL mangroves

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Biologists in SWFL are looking into how mangrove trees are affected by excessive rain and hurricane conditions.

Gianna Diaz, a graduate student at FGCU studying environmental science, enjoys seeing the different animals who find shelter and safety inside the Florida mangroves.

“They’re an ecosystem and a habitat for so many different species that are really vital to Florida,” Diaz said.

But the mangroves protect humans, too.

“They’re the kidneys of the ecosystem so they’re constantly filtering bad water. They protect the shore lines during storm surges,” Diaz added.

Win Everham, an ecological sciences professor at FGCU, has taken Diaz and other environmental science students to a 1.5 acre plot of land just off Bonita Beach Road to study the mangroves.

“Not a lot of students get to say that they just hop in a canoe and paddle to the mangrove island,” Everham said.

While on site, the group measures and marks the mangroves to see how they’re affected by the weather.

“The project really started before Irma came so what we know is that things are changing, sea levels coming up, on average we’re getting hotter, and the frequency and intensity of tropical storms is changing and so these mangroves have been here for thousands of years and are adapted for a lot of that but we don’t know how they will handle all this,” Everham said.

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