by Ana Zangroniz and Savanna Barry
What are mangroves?
Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees and shrubs that reside in low-energy, intertidal areas. They like to grow in warm areas, or where the temperatures do not hit lower than freezing for an extended period of time. Mangroves are quite recognizable in our state, largely due to the arching prop roots (of the red mangrove) that make them unmistakable. Mangroves provide nursery and roosting habitat to birds, fish, invertebrates, insects, reptiles, and more. They also provide multiple ecological functions such as shoreline stabilization, water filtration, carbon sequestration, among others. Since mangroves occupy the area where land and water meet, over the course of the last century, mangroves have been removed to make way for coastal development, mosquito impoundments, and other infrastructure. They are currently protected by state statute 403.9321, administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act (MTPA) of 1996 aims to protect and preserve mangrove resources valuable to our environment and economy from unregulated removal, defoliation, and destruction. This piece of legislation places restrictions on types of mangrove trimming or removal activities.
Since these trees are highly regulated, in addition to following all of the regulatory requirements involved, those planning trimming activities mush be a professional mangrove trimmer (PMT). A PMT is an individual with the proper training through various institutions (International Society of Arboriculture, Society of Wetland Scientists, etc.) to perform this process. To maintain their respective licenses, PMTs and other horticultural professionals must participate in professional development opportunities and earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs). As the climate warms, mangroves are marching farther north along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts in Florida. This means that many arborists and PMTs in North Florida are new to the mangrove trimming process and are in need of training.
Mangrove trimming workshops
In partnership with other organizations, UF/IFAS Extension and Florida Sea Grant offer both in-person and virtual mangrove trimming workshops. Subject matter experts are brought in to teach sessions on:
- mangrove biology and ecology
- mangrove ecological function/ecosystem services
- information and Q and A about the MTPA
- scenarios exercises with FDEP staff
- Best practices for mangrove trimming
Upon successful completion of the course, CEUs are awarded to the individuals seeking them. While the target audience of these course has been the landscaping/arborist community, homeowners and community members have also participated to learn more about mangroves and their regulatory process. Course evaluations have consistently shown that these workshops are highly effective and an important resource to these audiences. The ultimate goals of these courses are to empower the landscaping communities to more confidently navigate the regulatory process, and ensure that trimming best management practices are followed, allowing for the long-term resilience of these trees in our state.