Hurricane Ian devastated Southwest Florida’s shorelines. Could plants help lessen such damage in the future?

Conservationists at Naples Botanical Garden have teamed up with researchers from The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University to learn all they can about the dynamic coastal ecosystem and understand how beach dunes dissipate wind and water energy, lessening nature’s impact. Their work takes them to undeveloped beaches to observe wild-growing plants and the roles they play in the dune ecosystem. They also revisit a pilot restoration project along Naples Beach where, notable, the plants the Garden introduced in 2021 rebounded quickly and resumed capturing and accumulating sand.

Meanwhile, Garden staff collect seeds and cuttings from native beach dune plants for a mass production effort. The team intends to grow thousands of plants for dune restoration projects, using their coastal observations as a guide for determining what and where to plant. The Garden is collaborating with local governments as they invest in berm building and beach renourishment projects. A strategically planted coast—one with a rich array of native species—will hold that sand in place and prompt the development of nature’s shoreline barricades.

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