In September 2022, Hurricane Ian left behind catastrophic property damage in Southwest Florida.
SCCF wanted to learn more about how much damage may have been reduced where homes and businesses were protected by mangroves or coastal dunes, so we created a survey for local residents who own or rent property close to the shoreline.
Here's what the survey's 323 responses brought to light.
MANGROVES MATTERED — & DUNES DID TOO.
While not all respondents agreed, the majority of individuals perceived mangroves and dunes to be helpful in protecting their properties during the storm.
- On top of slowing down wave and wind energy, respondents felt mangroves helped catch debris that could have worsened the damage they experienced.
- Respondents cited dunes and wide beaches as helpful in slowing or reducing storm surge.
- Some didn’t think dunes or mangroves helped, while others felt their ability to alleviate damage was overwhelmed by the intensity of Hurricane Ian.
Survey respondents were self-selected and not randomized. Their properties all endured Hurricane Ian, and they witnessed firsthand what role mangroves and dunes may have played in mitigating the storm’s impact on their property.
TYPES OF PROTECTION
Respondents felt mangroves or dunes protected structures against the following types of damage.
PERCEPTIONS OF MANGROVES
WHEN PROPERTIES WERE BUILT
This survey was supported by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Pfeifer Fellowship, founded by Eric and Mary Ellen Pfeifer to fund collaborative research between SCCF and the University of Florida.
The Story Behind the Survey
Mangroves and coastal dunes serve as a natural defense against storms. Despite the sheer magnitude of the wind, waves, and water that Hurricane Ian introduced to Southwest Florida, SCCF heard from many residents who believed things would have significantly been worse if they hadn't had a dune or mangroves protecting their properties.
SCCF’s Pfeifer Fellow, Professor Emeritus Thomas T. Ankersen from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and SCCF Coastal Resilience Manager Carrie Schuman, Ph.D., created the mangrove and dune survey to obtain this qualitative data.
“The scientific literature contains a lot of analyses suggesting the importance of mangroves and dunes in protecting property, but very little of it focuses on individual properties,” Ankersen said. “Beyond protection from wind, waves, and water, mangroves trap debris, which could otherwise inflict additional damage. This survey gave us a better sense of the contributions of these natural systems to protecting coastal properties."