What’s black and white and red-all over Tampa Bay? Why, mangroves, of course. These hardy trees grow all over the world, but only three species are dominant along the shoreline of Tampa Bay. Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), and red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) are the most common types of mangrove tree found in this region.
If you’re new to Florida or unsure about how to manage your mangroves, there are a few things you must learn. The most important thing you must understand is that mangroves are protected trees in Florida. Below are three more things you should know about these important natural resources.
Yes, People Do Care If You Chop Down Mangroves Without Permission
When people first began moving to Florida in droves in the ’40s and ’50s, they found out the hard way what the state’s earliest inhabitants already knew: thick, twisted, entangled mangroves hug the shoreline and are a pain in the neck to humans trying to navigate by foot. Mangroves are mostly impenetrable in nature once they become established.
Mangroves also block the view. As Florida’s mid-century waterfront-property owners settled in, they wanted nice views of the bays and inlets. It seemed like a no-brainer to get rid of the scruffy wild mangroves blocking the scenic vistas and denying humans access to the water’s edge.
For that reason, 86 percent of mangroves in Florida have been destroyed since the 1940s. Half of the historic mangrove areas along the shoreline of Tampa Bay have been decimated. After the destruction of so many mangrove trees, people started to realize that the loss of the mangrove trees had led to additional losses. Floridians learned the hard way that like most things nature provides, mangroves play a vital role in the integrity and health of its ecosystem.
If you decide you’re going to go chop down your own messy mangroves because no one will care, think again. People will notice, and you could get caught and fined. As reported by Florida Today, one couple in Brevard County faced over $90,000 in fines for destroying 57 trees in 2007.
Call in a professional with a mangrove permit and mangrove-trimming experience before you even think about trimming your mangroves: doing so is a lot cheaper than paying the fines if you trim the trees in the wrong way.
Yes, Mangroves Are Great for Your Property
Red, white, and black mangroves actually protect the value of your waterfront property. They grow along the shoreline, providing multiple benefits to the land, water, and wildlife. The thick roots of mangroves embed themselves into the soil and prevent erosion. When a storm surge rolls through, an established mangrove barrier will stand firm while a naked sand beach may be completely washed away.
The leggy roots and overhanging foliage protect baby fish, birds, and other wildlife. Without a safe, cool, sheltered spot to spawn and sustain hatchlings, fish populations dwindle. When fish populations are reduced, dolphins, sharks, and shore birds disappear too.
Many shore and salt-marsh birds seek refuge in the mangrove branches during storms. Mangrove stands also protect waterfront property from strong winds and debris. The trees aerate the soil and help mitigate flooding by creating land that’s able to drain overflow water.
Mangroves trap and seal carbon at twice the rate of marshes when the mangrove stands are left undisturbed. The roots of the trees help filter the water passing through them. The leaves of the mangrove produce oxygen when growing and provide food for hatchlings as they rot in the water. Mangroves aren’t just beneficial; they’re essential.
Yes, You Can Have Mangroves and Still Have a View
The 1996 Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act (MTPA) is overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation. The MTPA governs how mangroves are managed in the state, unless you live in one of the delegated local governments. The following areas have separate mangrove regulations from the MTPA:
- Broward County
- Hillsborough County
- Miami-Dade County
- Pinellas County
- Sarasota County
- Manatee County
- Sanibel (city)
- Jupiter Island (city)
The MTPA and local officials do acknowledge your right to a view, but the one you prefer may not be legally possible. Most mangroves cannot be cut lower than six feet above the water. If you have a mangrove over 24 feet. tall, it must be trimmed gradually so too much leaf loss doesn’t kill the tree.
The specific guidelines and rules are too numerous to list here, but a qualified and permitted tree service professional will know and follow the regulations.
There are ways to provide a view on your property without harming the trees. One technique is called “windowing” because a “hole” is cut carefully in the dense mangroves to open up the view. In some cases, mangroves may be trimmed similar to the way crepe myrtles are cut—with bare branches below and ample foliage up high. Mangroves may also be trimmed into hedge shapes, becoming excellent privacy screens next to docks and poolside areas.