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Voluntourism Spotlight: Protect Florida’s Shoreline with FDEP

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In this week’s Voluntourism Spotlight, we take you to Northwest Florida where the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is doing some extraordinary work through their Ecosystem Restoration Section and offering several programs for eager volunteers to protect Florida’s shorelines. Check back every Wednesday for more voluntourism opportunities and make sure to review our resources for Hurricane Sandy donations and volunteer work.

Did you know that one adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water in a 24 hour period? While feeding, oysters take in viruses, bacteria, phytoplankton, algae, sediments and chemical contaminants found in the water column.  This efficient biological filter increases water clarity by reducing sediment loads and promotes increased water quality by removing chemical contaminants and potentially harmful microorganisms from the water column. So why do oysters matter? Protecting our shorelines is not just about cleaning up beach debris. Oyster reefs also function as wave breaks and offer shoreline protection from storm events.

By breaking powerful wave energy before it reaches the shoreline, oyster reefs play an important role in reducing shoreline erosion.

Eighty percent of Florida’s residents live within 10 miles of the coast with access to the amazing scenery, water activities and much more.  Enjoying the benefits of a coastal environment also comes with the responsibility to preserve its function as a living system. The FDEP has created the Ecosystem Restoration Section to do just that.

Since 1994, the Ecosystem Restoration Section (ERS) of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Northwest District has been working to restore coastal habitats throughout the Florida panhandle. There are numerous programs under the umbrella of ERS where volunteers can help to create, restore and enhance coastal dunes, stream systems, oyster reefs, salt marsh, and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Volunteer duties range from collecting oyster shells from partnering restaurants to identification and collection of native stream and dune vegetation.

Coordinators promise there is work available for “everybody at every level”  and welcome volunteer participation in all of their restoration activities year-round. Volunteers range from students, to non-profit groups and individuals just looking to make a difference. Click here for specific outlines of each program.

Want to get involved? Contact Amy Baldwin: amy.baldwin@dep.state.fl.us or Beth Fugate: beth.l.fugate@dep.state.fl.us

By Kari Adwell for PeterGreenberg.com

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