Leveraging Partnerships to Assess Damage and Recovery of Mangroves in Puerto Rico and Florida

Issue

Mangroves are small trees or shrubs that grow along tropical and subtropical coastlines. They provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife and play an important role in coastal resilience, including protecting coasts from storm impacts, and helping to improve water quality. The 2017 hurricane season heavily damaged the mangrove habitats of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Florida and Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Puerto Rico. Staff from both reserves recognized the need to better understand the damage and recovery trends for these invaluable habitats.

Process

To maximize this effort, the project team established a project advisory committee composed of scientists, natural resource managers, and local municipality decision makers who manage mangrove ecosystems or depend on their services. The Rookery Bay Reserve is a partner in the Mangrove Coast Collaborative, which is quantifying how hurricanes and other conditions affect the benefits that mangroves offer and the process of natural recovery. Having previously participated in the Social Science Basics training, staff from Rookery Bay Reserve employed techniques from the course to aid in expanding the partnership.

Using the course’s Stakeholder Analysis Tool, the partnership team was able to identify and invite different categories of stakeholders to participate in a project advisory committee. Additionally, the group used the Stakeholder Four Square Template, another course tool, to identify the needs and motivations of potential project partners. That information led to insights for inviting specific people to the active-partner roles, while slating the rest to receive information through a newsletter at project’s end. Scientists in the advisory group also are using the findings to better understand the role they should play in the overall effort.

Impact

In using this process, the committee’s makeup ensures a variety of perspectives and avoids duplication of effort. These stakeholder categories also are used to hold meetings where small subgroups can discuss issues based on their similar project interests. The Mangrove Coast Collaborative, now in process at the Rookery Bay Research Reserve and at the Jobos Bay Research Reserve, received a research grant through the NOAA Science Collaborative program to help better understand the links between degradation, recovery, and community benefits. (2022)

Two people standing in a forest surrounded by small trees and dead wood
Researchers survey healthy and damaged mangroves in Puerto Rico. (Credit: Ernesto Olivares)

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