The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is partnering with China’s Rilin Group to help restore 225 acres of mangroves in Collier County. The industrial group has committed $5 million to restore and monitor the mangrove forest at Fruit Farm Creek within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR).
RBNERR and its partners have been researching causes of the mangrove die-off in the area, which includes construction in the 1940s of state road 92, to develop a plan to restore environmental conditions such as historical water flows in the estuarine area. This project will enable implementing these advances in research that support the importance of restoring water flows to improve habit vital to encourage natural mangrove growth.
The project’s first phase, which entailed permitting, engineering and design, site surveys, vegetation clearing, excavation and fill removal, was completed in 2012 and included funding from private donations, a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and in-kind donations from local businesses.
“We are pleased to work with China’s Rilin Group and our community partners tocontinue to restore this forest,” said Keith Laakkonen, director of Rookery Bay Reserve and Southwest Regional Administrator for DEP’s Florida Coastal Office. “Mangroves are not only vital to our local economy but provide numerous benefits worldwide. This innovative project and accompanying research may prove beneficial to restoring and protecting these critical ecosystems around the globe.”
Partners on the project include: Coastal Resources Group, Inc. (the project manager), the Ecology Group, J.R. Evans Engineering, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the City of Marco Island, Friends of Rookery Bay and China’s Rilin Group.
Mangroves are instrumental to protecting Florida shoreline and providing habitat for marine life that are the basis of the $7.6-billion sports fishery industry, which employs 109,000 people. The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters on the Gulf coast of Florida in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Renee Wilson is Communications Coordinator at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. She has been a Florida resident since 1986 has joined the staff at the reserve in 2000.