Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Eco-tour of an Estuary on Sept 24th (Estuary Day)

To FNPS blog readers: from Joan Bausch (Cocoplum member, and the Native Plant Detective)
Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area (Flagler County)

Hoorahs and congratulations are in order for/to Mark Wheeler and the PawPaw Chapter for offering an eco-tour (Sept 24) to see and learn about the Salt Marsh Restoration/Reclamation Project at Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area (Flagler County) and the North Peninsula State Park (Volusia County).

Wheeler coordinated with Barbara Roberts, park manager, and Paul Haydt, St. Johns River Water Management District, the project coordinator, to pull off a great morning-- even keeping the 60% chance of thunderstorms away!

The group waiting to board. 

Over forty people from as far away as Jacksonville (Ixia) and Martin County (Cocoplum) responded, filling the pontoon boat run by the International Marine Ecological Research Solutions. What a great vessel, perfect for looking, learning and keeping the sun off our heads. Paul Haydt explained the work of reclamation and restoration and then we saw it for ourselves.


The pontoon boat

The Work (in really brief summary): reduce the vegetation to smallest pieces possible; scrape off the dirt to marsh level soil (could be up to, and more than 10 feet-- this was old dredge spoil from when the intracoastal was created); haul it away (this has gotten more complex since economic downturn); plant some Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) along the edge; and let nature take its course.

The new grasses are filling in.
The Results: “Sweet” according to Paul, can be seen at Gamble Rogers south of the boat ramp, and further south below Highbridge Road, see the area just beginning the reclamation. This part looks “just awful, said Paul.” Actually, you can drive south on John Anderson Highway from High Bridge toward Ormond Beach and look in over the fences to see these newer phases.

The impacts from intracoastal dredging and mosquito impoundments are being offset, and restoration of a healthy salt marsh has begun. What do we know? The marsh is the most productive habitat in the area (baby shrimp love it); the salt marsh occurs naturally on the west side of barrier islands; the salt marsh does not harbor mosquitos; the salt marsh protects small marine animal nurseries; the marsh is a good buffer, holding nutrients and run-off, knocking down waves. A healthy marsh will have a variety of grass types, both high and low. We saw black mangroves growing along the edges. Normally a freeze event would knock these back.

Paul Wheeler (on left) organized this great FNPS field trip
Paul brought maps to show the extent of the marsh area prior to human intervention. Marshes filled the area between the barrier island and the western tree line with meandering creeks running through it.

The trip was highly rewarding to this native plant detective (not sure if PawPaw made any money, or if costs for the vessel were covered). Not only did we meet new people--society members, but we had a chance to catch up with Don Spence who had been active on the state board when I also served. Don is on a track to earn his PhD very soon, just passed his oral exam. Good News!

Thanks to FNPS for putting notice of this event on its website home page. It coincided perfectly with a trip to visit family in Flagler! Would love to hear of other eco-tours to Florida’s native plant communities. Chapters, think what you have to offer in your neighborhood that you love, and others would want to know about. Yes I know we put our calendars on the website, but when you go the extra mile to put on something like this ecotour, it creates a really special event. Thanks Mark and Paw Paw Chapter!

Joan Bausch (Cocoplum member, and the Native Plant Detective)

PS Also learned that the northern-most coastal colony of the Florida scrubjay reside in a 300 acre scrub in North Peninsula State Park….. need to plan another trip!
An osprey uses this piling as a vatage point to spot fish.

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