The Evolution of Darwin Beach
Ever-growing and expanding, the invasive and exotic vegetation currently inhabiting Darwin Beach – specifically Beach naupaka Scaevola taccada and Australian Pine Casuarina equisetifolia – have not only prohibited the native species such as Seagrape Coccoloba uvifera and Green Buttonwood Conocarpus erectus from surviving, but have completely disrupted the beach ecosystem. Through the help of the University of Miami's Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science - along with Miami Seaquarium, Salt Waterfront Restaurant and Fillabag - MORAES has begun the process of removing these invasive and exotic species and replacing them with native species to eventually restore this coastal habitat and accurately represent a healthy Coastal Upland Natural Community. Additionally, each planting and removal session has been (and will continue to be) accompanied by a campus shoreline marine debris cleanup.
Before We Began...
Invasive Beach naupaka
Unrestricted Vegetation Growth.
Common Evidence of Invasive/Non-native Species
Here we see the effects an invasive vegetation species (Latherleaf) can have on the native Sea Grape which now must compete for moisture, sunlight, nutrients and space. Invasive plants are the number one cause of native biodiversity loss and have the potential to not only create a monoculture, but habitat loss altogether.
Invasive Species are defined as non-native or alien species within said ecosystem and their introduction into a new environment has the potential to cause economic or environmental harm. Even setting aside the environmental impacts, the unregulated growth of invasive species has limited beach accessibility for students and staff alike, prohibiting those on campus and at Miami Seaquarium from a direct line of site to the ocean.
Majority of the Vegetation Seen Below is Invasive/Non-Native
Upon completion of these restoration efforts, all invasive vegetation seen here will be removed and replaced with native species. In addition to providing habitat for native species, natural vegetation provides terrain stability by creating a buffer against waves, wind and tidal fluxes during storms.
Hey Kirk, that Coconut Palm Cocos nucifera behind you is native though, right?
Actually, Coconut Palms are non-native, and should not be planted in Florida's natural coastal upland ecosystems!
Progress So Far...
After two successful events with dozens of volunteers, MORAES is beyond excited with the progress thus far and is looking forward to continuing our efforts on Darwin Beach. Definitely check out our Get Involved tab at the top of the page for information on the next Evolution of Darwin Beach event.
With the Beach naupaka and Latherleaf removed, the Sea Grape, and other native species, have the opportunity to flourish.
Check out that view! Still a long ways to go, but excellent progress thus far.
So many thanks to our volunteers!
Volunteers and MORAES staff alike manually removed invasive and exotic vegetation from the beach while simultaneously conducting a data-driven beach cleanup. For vegetation too large to be removed by hand, trained staff from Miami Seaquarium utilized assorted power tools and equipment to assist in the removal process. Once removed from the beach, the debris was safely transported from the site and prepped for proper disposal through the help of Miami Seaquarium. By then end of two events, ~60 volunteers removed more than 3,200 square feet of vegetation and more than 400 lbs of marine debris from the site.
Hey, where did everyone go?
But... How Did the Events Go?
With the help of all our partners, MORAES is excited to continue with this restoration project. With the focus of each event focused on education and community cooperation, we hope to continue promoting awareness of such environmental issues while simultaneously conducting data collection to be used in future scientific endeavors. With the Rosentiel School community and associated campus being a hub for those in the marine science field here in south Florida, this is a project we at MORAES feel particularly passionate about. In addition to the beneficial environmental aspects of completing a project like this, we feel this is an opportunity for those involved in the SoFlo community to put their environmental passions to work.