Survey to understand how mangroves and coastal dunes inhibit storm damage

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

A nonprofit wants to find out how much mangroves and coastal dunes lessened the damage from Hurricane Ian through a survey.

On the east side of Sanibel, Dr. Scott Crater has looked over his “Jungle Cruise” backyard for 14 years.

“When you’re on these mangrove-lined canals, it’s like getting on the Disney Jungle Cruise,” said Crater.

After Hurricane Ian, it was less of a Disney experience and more of a jungle.

“We walked through our yard, which we could barely get through because there were so many fallen trees,” said Crater, “and it was– had to climb over things to get back to the dock area, and there was our boat, and it was floating.”

Crater’s boat survived Hurricane Ian’s Southwest Florida onslaught.

“It was tied up loosely in this canal and kind of ping-ponged around the canal and bounced off the mangroves, and they absorb the impact, and the boat was usable right after the storm,” said Crater.

But it’s not just the mangroves in Crater’s backyard that protected him. It’s the mangroves in other canals near his and dunes lining the Gulf that helped lessen the impact on his property.

“So there are other canals on the island that have concrete sea walls and no mangroves. It’s more convenient for boaters, but they were totally exposed to the wind and storm surge,” said Crater, “and a lot of those boats were tossed up into people’s yards and heavily damaged or destroyed.”

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation’s coastal resilience manager, Dr. Carrie Schuman, knows our natural structures can’t stop all the water in a case like Ian’s, but without them, things would be much worse.

“They’re helping to cut down a lot of the force in which that water comes in,” said Schuman, “and having, you know, water coming in with a lot less force means it will likely do a lot less damage, maybe destructure, maybe a lot less erosion.”

Along with reducing wind and wave energy, the branches caught debris that would have ended up on or in someone else’s property. On Sanibel, the mangroves lie mainly on the bayside. The defense on the Gulf side dunes, or the ridges on the beach, also slow wave and surge energy.

These benefits are why Schuman and her colleagues with SCCF created a survey to learn about the benefits of the natural structures.

Crater responded.

“I wanted people to know that it had concrete, tangible positive effects on me economically,” said Crater.

In Crater’s case, he says mangroves minimized damages to his house and boat from both wind and flooding.

Click here to take the survey. It takes less than 10 minutes to finish.

Click here to learn more information about the survey.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.