Text/Photos by Lisa D. Mickey, Marine Discovery Center
Earlier this spring, the restored salt marsh at the Marine Discovery Center hit an important milestone.
The on-site Mosquito Lagoon Marine Enhancement Center (MEC), a partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), MDC and others, harvested its 20,000th plant from the donor marsh.
The new harvest mark was set when Dr. Linda Walters and her team from the University of Central Florida (UCF) used the marsh to collect 100 plugs of Spartina alterniflora. The plants were harvested for use in living shoreline stabilization projects on public lands, including at Canaveral National Seashore, Tomoka State Park, Gamble Rogers State Park and Washington Oaks State Park.
Walters estimates she has harvested about 5,000 plants from the site to be used in conjunction with mangroves and oyster bags in her shoreline stabilization projects on Florida’s east coast.
“I had not heard of donor marshes until the MDC marsh was created by all the partners, so we heartily thank them for the foresight in helping with community restoration in Florida,” Walters said. “Having a local donor source also keeps project costs down.”
Through grant funding and coordinated partnerships, more than 45,000 cubic yards of fill material was moved from the 22-acre site that housed New Smyrna Beach High School from 1963-2006. The site was graded in 2014 to restore original tidal-marsh elevation to create a salt-marsh habitat, as well as an appropriate upland slope for native plants.
The project was widely embraced by New Smyrna Beach residents and surrounding academic communities, with volunteers, scientists and MDC staff hand-planting more than 25,000 native plants during the summer of 2014.
“It’s been a rewarding project to see the results of our vision become reality,” said Chad Truxall, MDC’s Executive Director. “The restored salt marsh meets the major actions of our mission: Education, Conservation and Exploration.”
“In education, we teach the community about the importance of coastal habitat and living shorelines,” Truxall added. “Through conservation, we harvest plants and use them to help restore coastal habitat throughout our region, and with exploration, we’re able to explore the marsh through our hands-on, feet-wet educational programs.”
The marsh is now home to a variety of fish, crabs, birds and plants, which have been monitored by college science students and various science agencies. Donations of cord grass and mangrove propagules will continue to benefit restoration projects throughout Central Florida.
“It’s been amazing the see the change over time,” said Annie Roddenberry, a biological scientist with FWC’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration division who has worked with the restored salt-marsh project since its construction. “It’s true that if you build it, they will come.”
To read more about the restored salt marsh, check it out here.
About the Marine Discovery Center
The Marine Discovery Center (MDC) was founded in 1997 with the goal to protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems through education, research and community stewardship. A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, MDC has become widely recognized for its quality educational and hands-on, feet-wet learning programs for kids, as well as adults. Using its 40-passenger Discovery boat and fleet of kayaks, the center offers learning opportunities as a floating classroom, in adventure camps, as well as for guided eco-tours by certified naturalists. The center showcases engaging exhibits for experiential learning and invites community participation in stewardship opportunities. For more information, visit www.marinediscoverycenter.org.