Consider the estuary – that plot of sand between the ocean and the land that serves as the nursery for a huge variety of sea life, as well as providing environmental protection from shifting tides and weather. You may not have noticed it when you went to the beach. It’s that area often covered by mangroves, infested with oyster beds, mucky and muddy and occasionally smelly with organic decay. Here, among the decomposing detritus, life begins for crustaceans, fish, birds and small mammals. Fishermen enjoy the bounty and sunbathers enjoy the shade.
But we aren’t always kind to this finely balanced ecology. We disturb bird nests, leave trash that pollutes the food web, and carelessly cast fishing lines and lures that end up entrapping and killing unsuspecting animals.
Next time you walk among the mangroves, remember its a nursery. Remember it keeps the land from slipping into the sea. So walk lightly, speak softly, go gently… Mother Nature is hard at work here. Try humming a lullaby.
Check out my article “Unintended Consequences” in Bay Soundings (the publication for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program) to learn more about how humans impact the delicate estuary balance.