Dec. 19, 2014
The Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserve launches its Adopt-an-Island program by inviting river enthusiasts to choose an island and assist with clean-ups, research studies and other projects that focus on protecting and preserving the natural beauty of that island.
Twelve islands, comprising 76 acres on the west side of the Halifax River along the Intracoastal Waterway in Ormond-by-the-Sea, are included in the preserve’s Adopt-an-Island program. Seven islands are currently adopted and five are still available for adoption. The islands are accessible only by water.
“Participants have the opportunity to assist with a variety of activities such as debris cleanup, removal of exotic vegetation and conducting diamondback terrapin surveys,” said Deborah Shelley, manager of the Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserve.
Of the 76 acres, 14 acres of exotics have been documented, primarily Australian pine and Brazilian pepper. After training on appropriate removal methods, volunteers can assist with the eradication of these exotic species.
The islands contain typical salt marsh habitat plants such as smooth cord grass, black needle rush and black mangrove. Upland trees and shrubs include cabbage palm, saw palmetto, holly and cedar. Diamondback terrapins and gopher tortoises also call the islands home. Wading birds and shorebirds are frequent visitors and aquatic inhabitants include several species of drum, spot, flounder, red fish, sheepshead, blue crab and shrimp.
Portions of the islands may be natural, while others were formed over 100 years ago when the Intracoastal Waterway was dredged for navigation. Some people refer to the islands as “spoil,” which is a term derived from an engineering perspective, when in fact, the upper layers of the dredged material is former submerged habitat.
Nearby Tomoka River and tributaries Strickland and Dodson creeks create a designated manatee sanctuary. Endangered West Indian manatees travel past the islands, up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, to access the manatee protection zone. Unlike springs that provide a warm water refuge during winter months, the Tomoka River is considered a summer refuge where manatees are known to give birth, especially in the quiet backwaters of the sanctuary.
For more information, please call the Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserve at 407-330-6727.