Environmental Times Spring 2022 Published by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management
Environmental Success Story American Oystercatchers Nesting in Lake Worth Lagoon
By David Carson
It’s May, which means we are well into bird nesting season. The Department is currently monitoring four pairs of American oystercatchers nesting in Lake Worth Lagoon. There are an estimated 1,500 nesting pairs of American oystercatchers on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. The Lake Worth Lagoon birds have quite a history. One pair is back for its 18th consecutive year of nesting in the lagoon, nesting at Grassy Flats. A second pair began nesting in 2014 at Bryant Park, a third pair in 2017 at Snook Islands and the fourth pair at Tarpon Cove in 2019. Currently the Grassy Flats and Bryant Park nesting pairs are each raising a single chick. The Tarpon Cove pair has two chicks. The Snook Islands pair have their hands full raising three chicks. These birds are a testament to the Department’s successful wetland habitat construction projects. Grassy Flats, Bryant Park, Snook Islands and Tarpon Cove are all restoration project sites that add valuable and productive fish and wildlife habitat to Lake Worth Lagoon. Next time you are on the water keep an eye out for these colorful birds. Learn more about Lake Worth Lagoon at www.pbclakeworthlagoon.com.
American oystercatchers have distinctive black and white plumage, long, bright orange beaks and orange eyes. They live in coastal habitats including sand or shell beaches, dunes, salt marshes, marsh islands, mudflats and dredge spoil islands made of sand or gravel. These birds feed almost exclusively on shellfish and other marine invertebrates. Oysters are a staple of their diet, as their name suggests, but they also eat mussels, clams, limpets, sea urchins, crabs, starfish and worms. Nesting occurs between April and July. One to three eggs are laid in nests that are just shallow depressions scraped into the sand and lined with shells and/or pebbles. The eggs incubate for 27-29 days before hatching. Chicks can run around two hours after hatching and fledge (fly) in approximately 35 days. Even though they can take to the air, the chicks remain dependent on the parents for food several months after fledging.
Palm Beach County Completes a Busy Beach and Dune Restoration Season
By Chris Carstens
Coral Cove Dune Restoration
This past winter, Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management completed one of the busiest beach and dune restoration seasons to date. Four projects were constructed within five months, and approximately 509,000 cubic yards of beach-quality sand were placed at a total cost of approximately $12 million. The projects were funded by a combination of Federal and State grants, cost share agreements with local municipalities and tourism bed taxes collected by Palm Beach County hotels. The County expects to recover about 50% of the project costs from our funding partnerships. The largest project, Segment 1 of the North County Comprehensive Shore Protection Project (NCCSPP), consisted of a full-scale beach nourishment of over 409,000 cubic yards of sand in December, 2021 along a 1.05 mile stretch of coastline between Jupiter Inlet and Carlin Park. Sand was dredged from an offshore borrow area, pumped onshore through a pipeline and then graded with heavy construction equipment. Although the project received partial nourishments in recent years to repair erosion associated with hurricanes, this was the first full nourishment since 2002. The other three projects were restorations of the dune without any placement of sand below the high water line. These types of projects, in which sand is delivered to the site by truck from upland sand mines, are conducted in areas where full beach nourishment is not practical. This situation most commonly occurs due to permitting restrictions in areas where reefs exist in close proximity to the shoreline. In November and December, 2021 the Coral Cove Dune Restoration Project placed over 40,000 cubic yards of sand along a one mile stretch from the northern county boundary south through Coral Cove Park in Tequesta. Then, in December, 2021 and January, the Singer Island Dune Restoration Project placed approximately 31,500 cubic yards of sand along a 1.3 mile stretch between John D. MacArthur Beach State Park and Ocean Reef Park. Finally, in March and April, over 27,500 cubic yards of sand were placed in Segment 2 of the NCCSPP along 1.5 miles between Carlin Park and Ocean Cay Park in southern Jupiter. Following construction for each project, the County planted native, salt-tolerant dune vegetation to enhance and stabilize the restored dunes. In the case of Segment 2 of the NCCSPP, a bit more work was required. A significant amount of invasive exotic vegetation, growing for several decades, had covered the dune area. These invasive plants were removed and native dune vegetation was planted. These beach and dune restoration projects are conducted by Palm Beach County to provide protection from storms, recreational space for residents and visitors, and habitat for critically threatened or endangered wildlife. 2
Singer Island Dune Restoration
Monitoring Lake Worth Lagoon Sea Turtles Since 2005, Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) has partnered with Inwater Research Group, Inc. (IRG) to evaluate the marine turtle population in Lake Worth Lagoon via permitted marine turtle capture and tagging efforts. The findings from this research project show that sea turtles are present in the lagoon year-round. The study also provides baseline data on the abundance, size class structure, genetic origin and disease incidence of marine turtles in the lagoon. Sea turtles are an indicator species of the health of the lagoon - when they thrive that means the watershed ecosystem is balanced and seagrass, fish, crustaceans and other marinelife are also thriving. More in-depth monitoring of these reptiles was needed. In early 2021, ERM collaborated with local partners to deploy nine acoustic satellite receivers throughout the lagoon. This deployment created an acoustic telemetry network that gives biologists the opportunity to participate in data collection via the Florida Atlantic Coastal Telemetry network. Fish with acoustic tags traveling past a satellite receiver are recorded, offering a wealth of data about movement and preferred habitat. This type of tracking worked so well that ERM staff decided to use it to monitor the movements of sea turtles within Lake Worth Lagoon. In the spring of 2021 IRG attached acoustic transmitter tags to juvenile green sea turtles in the Munyon Island study area to monitor their habitat utilization and movement throughout the lagoon and adjacent waters. ERM assisted IRG in successfully attaching 10 acoustic transmitter tags, with the final acoustic tag deployed on April 26, 2022. An additional ten acoustic transmitters are planned for deployment in late 2022 and early 2023. This program will expand our understanding of Lake Worth Lagoon’s sea turtles and provide data allowing ERM staff to monitor the long-term effects of restoration efforts within the lagoon.
Top: Acoustic satellite tag (gray clay-like object) is attached to the shell of a juvenile green sea turtle. Bottom Left: In addition to tagging the sea turtles, staff also collect skin tissue from the rear flipper. Bottom Right: Once the tag is in place and the health data collected, the sea turtle is returned to Lake Worth Lagoon. All work with sea turtles is conducted by authorized personnel under federal and state issued marine turtle permits
By Colette Biondi
Another Lake Worth Lagoon Restoration Project is Underway Construction of the Palm Beach Resilient Island Project got underway on March 14, 2022. A remnant eroded mangrove island in Lake Worth Lagoon, located just north of Southern Boulevard near Tarpon Cove, is receiving a makeover. This 1.2-acre project will result in the creation of 0.46 acres of mangrove habitat and 0.2 acres of oyster reefs. To get these results requires the placement of 4,300 tons of sand and 1,200 tons of limestone rock. The project will test nature-based solutions to protect and enhance coastal communities from erosion and sea level rise. It will also create nesting habitat for American oystercatchers and other shorebirds. This project is a partnership between Palm Beach County, the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The FDEP and TNC each contributed $300,000 to this project. Construction is expected to be completed by late June or July. Learn more about the Department’s Lake Worth Lagoon restoration projects at www.pbclakeworthlagoon.com. By Dave Carson
Native Canopy Education Program Ends a Successful Eight-Year Run of Promoting Native Plants in Residential Landscapes Since 2014, the Native Canopy Education Program has been a popular feature at events such as LagoonFest, South Florida Fair, Mounts Botanical Garden plant sales, Black Gold Jubilee and Spookyville. Managed by the Palm Beach County’s Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Resources Management, the program’s goal was to increase the public’s understanding of the importance of preserving native Florida vegetation canopy. It did so by handing out free native plants to Palm Beach County residents, holding dozens of public educational workshops, as well as developing and distributing a wealth of educational resources. The program covered related environmental topics by providing information on water conservation, techniques on dealing with invasive plants, and plant selection to support birds and other wildlife. Plants native to our region often require less maintenance than non-natives and have many benefits, including providing food and shelter for local wildlife, reducing energy costs and cleaning the air we breathe. Over the last eight years, the Native Canopy Education Program provided county households with over 8,700 Florida native plants, engaging with thousands of residents in the process and building lasting awareness. The Native Canopy Education Program drew to a close on March 31, 2022. The program more than accomplished the initial goals set for it, thanks to the dedication of the program’s staff, support of our native nursery partners, and most importantly, the enthusiastic response of our residents. By Dmitriy Shvets
Engaging Teens With A Positive Nature Experience Trailblazers Program Expands to Reach More Youth Today’s teens spend less than 30 minutes a day outside and more than seven hours a day in front of a computer, cell phone, or other electronic device. These numbers leave little doubt that teens are missing out on the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors in nature. The department’s Trailblazers Program (formerly known as Tri City Trailblazers) is working to provide area youth with a chance to explore the outdoors and form a lasting, positive relationship with nature. When the program began in 2018, the focus was to engage youth attending the Youth Empowerment Centers (YECs) in the Tri City area of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay. The kids visited different habitats and learned how each ecosystem connected to the other. Today, the program has expanded to include students at Lake Worth and Riviera Beach YECs as well as students in public, private, and home schools. The program conducts field trips to natural areas located near the YECs with the hope that the students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the land, plants, and animals that live there and realize that nature is easily within reach. Over 100 youth have participated in the program during the first five months of 2022. They participated in seven field trips that allowed them to spend quality time outside exploring, learning, and connecting while being present, in the moment, without distractions. The students benefited from being outdoors, surrounded by trees, fresh air and the quiet of the woods grounding them to nature. The Trailblazers Program will continue to evolve to get more youth in touch with nature. By Samantha Corr
Spring 2022 Volunteers planted 100 red maple seedlings at Winding Waters Natural Area on March 16, 2022.
KEEPING IT CLEAN AND GREEN
VOLUNTEERS IN ACTION Here are the numbers for the first three months of 2022 - Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management volunteers donated 625 labor hours to help preserve the county’s precious environment. More than 230 volunteers worked on 22 projects in county-owned natural areas. They removed 4,620 pounds of trash and invasive nonnative plants and planted 1,100 grasses and red maple seedlings. Awesome job, volunteers!
Volunteers removed 640 pounds of trash and invasive nonnative ferns from Delray Oaks Natural Area on February 23, 2022.
By Ann Mathews
Lynn University students removed 200 pounds of trash from Winding Waters Natural Area on January 14, 2022.
Volunteers removed 400 pounds of trash from North Jupiter Flatwoods Natural Area on March 30, 2022.
Volunteers removed 1,340 pounds of trash and debris from Jupiter Ridge Natural Area on March 24, 2022.
Literacy Americorps Palm Beach County staff removed 120 pounds of trash from Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area on February 4, 2022. 7
Update on ERM’s Virtual Field Trips
Banded watersnake highlighted during Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area field trip.
The Department has been working with Ms. Heather Magill from Palm Springs Community Middle School to do virtual field trips for Palm Beach County students since April 2020. Even though students have returned to in-person classes, the virtual field trips continue as enrichment studies. Virtual field trips were held at Ocean Reef Park (8/31/21), Juno Dunes Natural Area (12/16/21), DuBois Park (2/23/22) and Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area (5/24/22).
During the Ocean Reef Park field trip, students learned about the area’s nesting sea turtles and witnessed an excavation of a recently hatched green sea turtle nest. Offense vs. Defense was the theme for the Juno Dunes Natural Area field trip as students learned about techniques used by plants and animals to survive and thrive. The DuBois Park field trip highlighted the Science of Archaeology. Special guest Chris Davenport, Palm Beach County Archaeologist, brought along artifacts from local digs and showed students one of the techniques used to find these important items. The final field trip at Loxahatchee Slough brought students to the wetlands to learn about the plants and animals that live there. These live virtual field trips get a second life on YouTube. Some of the field trips have each been viewed over 800 times! Just search for ERM Virtual Field Trip on YouTube to find these videos.
Environmental Times Volume 27 Issue 2 Published quarterly by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management 2300 N. Jog Road - Fourth Floor West Palm Beach, FL 33411-2743 561-233-2400 www.pbcerm.com www.facebook.com/pbcerm Deborah Drum..........Department Director Michael Stahl...................Deputy Director Ann Mathews...................Editor/Graphics
Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Robert S. Weinroth, Mayor Gregg K. Weiss, Vice Mayor Maria G. Marino Dave Kerner Maria Sachs Melissa McKinlay Mack Bernard Verdenia C. Baker, County Administrator
Green sea turtle nest excavation during Ocean Reef Park virtual field trip.
Offense vs. Defense field trip at Juno Dunes Natural Area showcasing animals from Busch Wildlife Sanctuary.
Archaeology field trip at DuBois Park.