Jessica Meszaros / WGCU News

A couple researchers created fake mangroves in Sarasota County to bring back marine life that was lost from development. Along Florida’s coasts are seawalls-- built to prevent the shoreline from eroding. But that defense sometimes means removing natural habitats. Experts are now trying to turn these solid barriers into thriving ecosystems.

Mangroves are quintessentially tropical and take root along the coast of the Everglades and the Keys where they are home to colorful fish and crabs. But these plants are not marooned in South Florida anymore. WFSU went searching for mangroves along the state’s Gulf Coast.

State inspectors say a failing sewage plant in southwest Florida pumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of inadequately treated liquid sewage into nearby mangroves earlier this year.

b-cline via Flickr

According to scientists from Brown University and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, mangrove forests are moving north along most of Florida's east coast and flourishing in regions where they used to die in winter cold snaps.

Lead researcher Kyle Cavanaugh says 28 years of satellite imagery clearly show the mangroves crowding out the salt marsh along the northeast Florida coast between St. Augustine and Titusville. It's probably climate change, he says, not a decrease in average temperatures, but in the number of freezing nights.

"In the mid to late 1980, Daytona Beach was experiencing these events one to two times a year", said Cavanaugh. "But by 2010, the events were only occurring every one to three years"

Mihow_ / Flickr / Creative Commons

The FGCU lecture series focuses on the condition of Florida’s publicly-owned mangroves this week.