Showing posts from February, 2020

Ghost forests are not all bad

A ghost forest is an area of dead or dying trees.  Ghost forests that are appearing in coastal Florida these days are generally caused by rising sea level -- the increasing intrusion of salt water into a habitat that once supported trees that were not so salt- or water-tolerant. The trees die, leaving only their upright, dead skeletons -- called snags -- and eroded roots behind. A snag on Silver Key, decorated with shells. But there is a ghost forest area on Silver Key in Sanibel that was caused more directly by humans.  Years ago, the City of Sanibel killed the invasive exotic Casuarina (Australian Pine) trees on Silver Key.  Many of the snags have now fallen, but some remain, and a few of them support osprey nests. The remaining salt marsh on Silver Key appears to be thriving.  Much of it is savanna-like.  Part of it is wooded with sea grapes and buttonwoods.  And then there's the beach side of Silver Key, which is in a constant state of change. Where the beach meets th

Living off the land while leading

My friend Yvonne Hill recently convinced Sanibel's Island Cinema to show the movie "Harriet."  This superb movie is full of riveting moments and inspiring drama.  The setting for much of the action was a land that is much like parts of the western half of Sanibel:  mostly flat, interspersed with brackish tidal waters and marshy woodlands. How did Harriet Tubman survive, traveling through that tough wilderness, I wondered?  The movie, wonderful as it is, does not really cover this subject. Even on a small, 3.5-acre tract of upland and lowland wetland woods that my husband and I once owned on Sanibel, we would become disoriented as we wandered through the dense foliage.  What kept us from becoming completely lost was the sound of traffic on Sanibel-Captiva Road. But Harriet had no traffic noise to orient her.  Instead, she relied upon her knowledge of nature. The place where she was enslaved as a child is now in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern

Mangroves make the world a better place

In these days of concern about climate change, we often hear about the importance of forests for storing carbon.  Worldwide, mangroves account for storage of more carbon than almost any other kind of forest on earth.  I wrote about mangroves in this blog four years ago.  Since then, a study published in 2018 has shown that the earth’s mangrove forest soils hold 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon in 2000 – far more than previously estimated.[1] Florida, according the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has 554,515 acres of mangroves.[2]  About 11,000 of those acres are on Sanibel. Besides sequestering carbon, these mangroves around us are stabilizing our shorelines. Their root systems slow the flow of the water, causing sediments and nutrients to settle and form a foundation for marine life. Spoonbills and ibis dine near mangroves in the Old Blind Pass arm of Clam Bayou. Mangroves are important to fish.  The Florida Museum affiliated with the University of Florida tells us that “an

Walking the ever-changing beach

I begin my morning walk by just ambling down the lane on the hushed and heavily wooded Porpoise Point, heading south along the aptly named Coconut Drive.   On  breezy days like this, I avoid walking directly beneath the taller, fruit-laden coconut trees.    One day last week, a cannonball-size coconut fell to the pavement right in front of my car as I drove home on Coconut Drive.   The impact was so great that a gush of coconut water shot up from the cracked husk.   I felt blessed that I was no longer driving a Miata, but a CX-3 instead. As I began my walk this morning, I thought about which route to take.   On a windy day, I might not opt to walk on the beach because I do not wish to be sandblasted. Being sandblasted hurts.   But this morning was simply breezy in a blustery way.   When I could see Sunset Bay as I passed the cute, old beach cottages across from Castaways Lane, I could see the exposed sandbar.   Hmmm. Tide is low, I thought.   In spite of the breeziness, I dec

Providing Sanctuary

Last weekend, I finished my most favorite volunteer job ever:  a one-year term as moderator of the Congregational Church on Sanibel Island.  The moderator leads the church council, the governing body of the church.  In our church, one prepares for being moderator by first serving a year as vice moderator.  So this was really a two-year stint. My first thought, when it came time to prepare my “Year in Review” comments for last Sunday's annual meeting, was to do what I’d done before when I’d led nonprofit organizations:   go through the year’s reports, minutes, news releases, calendar, etc., and write a summary.    Tillandsia thriving in a safe place on a tree trunk. But the church annual report already had brief and informative reports from each of the committees, the deacons' board, and the church council.  I urged church members to take them home, read them, and think about how they’d like to be involved with the church in the years to come.   So instead of t