Saving Our Precious Coastlines
In 1903, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Sebastian, Florida, was the first land in the United States to be set aside by the federal government as a National Wildlife Refuge. Today, the refuge encompasses 5,413 acres of coastal habitat including coastal hammock, mangrove forest, and salt marsh. Pelican Island, located offshore of the mainland refuge, is a mangrove island and a critical wildlife area providing bird nesting habitat for a diversity of Florida bird species. Like many Intracoastal Waterway islands, Pelican Island long suffered from severe erosion problems, resulting in a decrease in size from approximately 5.5 acres in 1943 to 2.2 acres (60% loss) in the 1990s. Coastal Resources Group team members have worked with the refuge since 2004 on four nature-based living shoreline projects to reduce erosion to the island. Our work includes constructing and maintaining an oyster breakwater around the northwest side of the island, planting tidal wetland species to encourage sediment accretion, and restoring critical nesting habitat for birds. Today the island’s shorelines are stable and the island has expanded to 3 acres.