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Grant funds awarded to Duke University and USF will address ecosystem services and habitat changes in Southwest Florida

mangrovesNAPLES, Fla. – Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve announces new collaborations with Duke University and the University of South Florida (USF) to conduct research on Rookery Bay lands and waters. The projects are supported by two National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative catalyst grants of $114,000 to Duke University and $182,000 to USF.

“These projects will provide important information about ecosystem services and habitat changes to support protection and restoration of coastal habitats,” said Keith Laakkonen, Rookery Bay Research Reserve director.

The USF project will use high-resolution satellite imagery and advanced-processing techniques to map habitats throughout the research reserve’s 110,000 acres. This will provide detailed maps to help staff determine how habitats have changed from one year to the next, or over longer periods of time. The maps also can inform habitat restoration projects and management actions to enhance resiliency in other locations.

“Newer, high-resolution maps of coastal wetlands will help assess habitat loss, recovery from hurricanes and shifts in marine and coastal vegetation resulting from sea-level rise,” Laakkonen said.

The Duke University project will develop a new tool to help determine the value of ecosystem services provided by the coastal environment. These services include food production, nutrient cycling, oxygen production, aesthetic and recreational benefits and more. This tool will help coastal managers and community leaders identify and promote these values that help sustain and strengthen the local economy, particularly in relation to tourism and recreation.

Both projects are scheduled to begin September 2018 and continue through August 2019.

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