Restoring shallow bank habitats in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

September 2018

When boats ground in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, they can damage fragile ecosystems like seagrass beds and shallow banks. Learn how we and our partners work to restore these vital habitats in our video!


Today we're looking at shallow water banks.

I'm going to be looking at an area that was restored because of vessel groundings.

We're trying to study the recovery rates of these groundings and develop new techniques to restore these groundings faster.

When a vessel grounds, it creates an excavation.

That destroys the seagrass and the community of the ecosystem.

And this community takes about eight to 20 years to recover without an intervention.

So we want to do restoration.

All these groundings collide with each other and eventually they break apart the ecosystem and we lose all the services that ecosystem provides.

It's important for many reasons.

First of all, because of the services lost.

What I mean by services, I mean the service that the seagrass community gives to the environment, such as primary production or to serve as a nursery for animals to live in.

And we bring back the services to the environment so there's more space for animals to grow, as a nursery for animals, so we're returning back to the ecosystem what was lost due to human impact.

Here in Florida for example, our rate of boating activity and boating licenses is increasing drastically.

And with that comes the impact on the resources.

We are trying to develop a technique to restore these sites faster and to try to return the services to the ecosystem.

What I mean by restore, what we did was restore the topography of the injury.

We fill it up with calcium carbonate sediments, crushed, small particles.

We fill it all up almost to grade and then we cap them with a sediment tool, it's almost like a big sock, about one meter long by 20 centimeters wide.

And then we cap the injury and plant it, and we introduce fertilizer via bird stakes.

That's what we did today.

We went to look at them and this grounding took about a year and a half to get restored.

Without the restoration, it would have taken 20 years, or most likely it would have never been restored because it fragments the ecosystem.

So you have a bank that's been hit several times by vessels, eventually those groundings collide with each other and it breaks the bank apart.

These banks, they formed thousands of years ago, or ten thousands of years ago or more.

They used to be small bottom communities, and they started getting bigger and bigger, grabbing sand particles, creating these little tiny islands and eventually they'll become mangrove islands.

I would tell them to make sure that they know where they're going to, to familiarize themselves with the waters, be familiar with the boat that they're using, make sure they read the charts, and all the signs that are on the boat ramp.

Make sure they know how to read the water.

If the water is shallow, stay away from it.

If you see the water is brown, it's getting shallow.

And just to be cautious, that the ecosystems are very precious environments.

If we keep destroying them then they'll disappear.