Big Pine Key Cleanup

Article By: Edgar Woo

Have you ever woken up and said "I wish I could do something awesome today".

We not only say it, we actually do it! and while we do it, we also challenge others to join us and rise up to that challenge. On March 9th, we loaded a couple of vans full of energetic motivators and drove a couple of hours south from Miami to Big Pine Key.

 The keys are known for their beautiful and abundant waterways, as well as their incredibly diverse and beautiful rockland hammock habitats. These habitats are home to countless animal species, and an incredible variety of plant life, some of which are critically endangered and only found in this region of the world.

Even months after the impact of Hurricane Irma, many mangrove and pine rockland habitats are full of trash and debris.

In order to best preserve these areas for the future generations, we have taken it upon ourselves to clean up the human debris that’s been scattered about by hurricane Irma and other factors.

In conjunction with the Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation, The Conch Republic Marine Army and Lenore Baker, we identified a mangrove preserve and a couple of Pinerock land sites that we targeted for rehabilitation.

We put in three hard days and we were able to clear out close to 1,500 lbs of debris and trash from the mangroves as well as over 2,000 lbs of debris and trash from the rockland hammocks. On March 11th we ended our current event in Big Pine Key and returned back to our home base in Miami. Planning is under way to return and continue our work.

We are coordinating more events to come back down to the Florida Keys.

Contact us if you’re interested in spending a weekend at the keys helping out.

Here’s some more information on these areas in case you’d like to learn more about where we’re working.

Pine rockland and rockland hammock are unique natural communities found only in extreme southern Florida where limestone is at or very near the soil surface. These distinct community types co-occur in limited areas of Dade and Monroe counties on the Miami Rockridge, as well as in the Florida Keys and in parts of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Natural Preserve.

Pine rockland is a fire-adapted community composed of an open canopy of south Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa) and a diverse array of understory shrubs and herbs, including many tropical species. Rockland hammock occurs within pine rocklands in areas protected from fire, or embedded within several wetland community types. The rockland hammock is a closed canopy hardwood forest dominated by a diverse suite of subtropical trees and shrubs.

Pine rocklands and rockland hammocks support a high diversity of rare plant species, as well as an array of endemic, tropical and subtropical plants and animals, species that occur nowhere else in the world. Both rockland community types are severely threatened by agriculture and development pressures in south Florida. The current extent of these communities represents only a fraction – about two percent – of their historic range. Other threats include invasion by exotic plants and animals, sea-level rises associated with global warming, habitat fragmentation and, in the case of pine rockland, fire suppression.

Julissa Rivera