April 8, 2021
Canals in SW Florida during restoration. These canals are home to juvenile tarpon and snook. Photo: SWFWMD
Part 1: Juvenile Habitat Restoration
Habitat restoration is often defined as repairing damage to habitats, usually damage caused by humans. The goal is to bring back natural ecological function to the habitats for the benefit of the species that depend on them. Common examples include restoration of salt marshes and mangrove wetlands that have been physically damaged, such as digging a canal through the wetland, as well as wetlands that have been indirectly impacted, such as by alteration of freshwater flows into the wetland. In both cases, the degradation of the habitat typically causes decreases in the number of species using the habitat and reduced growth and survival of species that remain.
In more extreme cases, habitats have been completely lost; perhaps a wetland was filled in to convert to farmland or to enable building construction. These scenarios present the different challenge of total wetland reconstruction. In the first instance, the wetland can be reconstructed on the original site by reclaiming the farmland and converting it back to wetland. In the second instance, a new wetland might be constructed in an entirely different location as mitigation for the lost habitat, or perhaps constructed in land that remains within the developed area.
These types of habitat damage are what we address in our Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Program with a focus on restoration of habitats for juvenile tarpon and snook. From a broader conservation perspective, restoring habitats important to tarpon and snook also benefits the many dozens of species that also rely on them. In 2020, BTT provided science-based guidance on two tarpon juvenile habitat restoration projects and worked with collaborators to plan another 6 while continuing to monitor the successful Coral Creek restoration project completed in 2019.
Although there are many things we consider when evaluating projects, three of the top items are:
Only if potential restoration sites meet these criteria will BTT consider a project.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Mangrove Restoration
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