Current MORAES Project: 

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. By partnering with RSMAS (University of Miami's marine and atmospheric research institution) - 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 in the hopes of eventually restoring this coastal habitat to 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 plants are one of the number one causes of native biodiversity loss and have the potential to not only create a monoculture, but create habitat loss altogether. Even setting aside the environmental impacts, the unregulated dense growth of the invasive Beach naupaka has limited beach accessibility for students and staff alike along the shoreline, prohibiting those on campus from a direct line of site to the ocean.

Progress...

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.

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 hopefully used in future scientific endeavors. With the RSMAS 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.

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