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Mangrove Lesson Plan: Exploring Florida Keys' Coastal Heroes

Introduction: Welcome to the "Florida Keys Mangroves Lesson Plan: Form Meets Function." This lesson plan is designed for students in grades 5 through 8 and is intended to complement the study of Mangrove Ecosystems. In Florida, these unique ecosystems are home to three species of salt-tolerant trees known as mangroves: Red Mangroves (Rhizophora mangle), Black Mangroves (Avicennia germinans), and White Mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa). Mangrove trees play a critical role in the coastal and shoreline ecosystems of Florida. They stabilize sediment, prevent erosion, and mitigate the impact of strong waves and winds, especially during large storm events like hurricanes. Additionally, mangroves provide essential nursery habitats for numerous commercially and environmentally important species of fish and invertebrates.


Instructions:

  1. Utilize the knowledge you gained from the Mangrove Ecosystems Distance Learning Module.

  2. Dive deeper into the accompanying identification field guides to match each species of mangrove (Red, Black, or White) to the provided pictures and descriptions. Use these tools to help you identify the mangroves:


Questions:

  1. What species has broad, waxy leaves that are elongated and come to a blunt point?

  2. What species has “snorkel” roots called pneumatophores, which grow up out of the oxygen-deprived muck?

  3. What species has small, ribbed “fruit” called drupes?

  4. What species has small, white flowers that occur in terminal (end of the stem or branch) clusters?

  5. What species can be characteristically observed with dried salt crystals on its leaves as a result of excretion?

  6. What species has whitish petals that are separated by yellow sepals (which support the petal)?

  7. What species has round leaves with two nodular nectaries on the petiole (stalk that joins the leaf to the stem)?

  8. What species is characterized by cylindrical, floating propagules (“mangrove embryos”) that are distributed by ocean currents?

  9. What species has green propagules that resemble lima beans and are distributed by tides and currents?

  10. What species is characterized by tangling “prop” roots that are often reddish in color?

  11. What species has white flowers with distinctive yellow centers? Bees love to make honey from these fragrant flowers!

  12. What species is characterized by having no aerial roots and growing higher above the tide line than the other two species?

Answer Key:

  1. Red Mangrove

  2. Black Mangrove

  3. White Mangrove

Background: In Florida, there are three species of salt-tolerant trees called mangroves: Red Mangroves (Rhizophora mangle), Black Mangroves (Avicennia germinans), and White Mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa). Mangrove trees are critically important to the coast and shorelines of Florida because they stabilize sediment, prevent erosion, and break up strong wave and wind energy, often created by large storm events like hurricanes. Mangroves also provide a complex nursery habitat for many commercially and environmentally important species of fish and invertebrates. Despite their importance, mangrove density is occasionally lost due to natural events, but the biggest threat to mangroves is human impact. Humans have been modifying mangrove habitats and using mangroves as resources for a very long time. In the Indian River Lagoon, approximately 8,000 acres of mangrove habitat exist, but 6,000 acres were converted into mosquito impoundments and can no longer be accessed by juvenile fish for nursery habitat (FDEP). Before mangroves could be protected by law, many acres were bulldozed for coastal development. Without mangroves, Florida’s coast would look very different. In this activity, you will explore the threats to mangrove ecosystems.




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