High Impact Practices Student Showcase Spring 2024

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Dr. Linda Walters

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The spring 2024 class of Advanced Marine Biology performed data collection and worked on this field research project. We would like to thank the spring 2023 Advanced Marine Biology class for previous data collection, Dr. Michael Gilbrook for his guidance on the GIS analysis, Canaveral National Seashore for site access, and Paul Sacks, Jordyn Collis and Katherine Harris for their guidance and assistance in carrying out this project.

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As global temperatures rise due to climate change, tropical mangroves have spread poleward. Mangroves now impact many other ecosystems, including salt marshes and oyster reefs in central Florida. A study documented a 198% increase in mangrove abundance on intertidal reefs of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) since 1984 in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). The first goal of the field project was to understand the current dimensions, densities, and spatial distributions of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) on intertidal oyster reefs in Mosquito Lagoon (ML;North IRL) compared to an earlier survey. The second goal was to record herbivory damage to leaves of mangrove seedlings on oyster reefs by the mangrove tree crab (Aratus pisonii). Reefs with or without mangrove stands were analyzed to test if presence of adult mangrove stands on reefs increases herbivory. Data was collected across ten reefs in ML in spring 2024 and compared to the same reefs surveyed in spring 2023. Results indicated a 6.2% increase in mangrove stand area from 2023 to 2024. Seedling density on reefs with stands had a significant difference (p = 0.006) than those without. There was an increase in herbivory on reefs with stands from 2023 to 2024, however there was a decrease in herbivory on reefs without stands. As climate change continues to cause ecosystem shifts within the IRL, it is important to understand these relationships among foundational species so resource managers can better predict and protect the future of these vital ecosystems.


Climate Change; Tropicalization; Oyster Reef; Mangrove; Tree Crab; Mosquito Lagoon

March of the Mangroves: Tropicalization Impacts on Mosquito Lagoon Oyster Reefs