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Cedar Key’s living shorelines bolster resilient community

As the 2023 hurricane season comes to a close, the living shorelines of Cedar Key should be considered one of the year’s success stories. 

In the days after Hurricane Idalia made landfall, a brief camera sweep of the Cedar Key landscape gave a glimpse of hope for two viewers of The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, watching from their inland evacuation spots. 

A stretch of beach, blanketed by green plants, came into view behind the meteorologist.

“It’s still there!”

Mark Clark, a University of Florida associate professor in the soil, water, and ecosystem sciences department, said he and colleague Savanna Barry, a UF/IFAS Extension regional specialized Florida Sea Grant agent, began texting back and forth after the sighting of one of their project sites.

Barry and Clark lead several outreach efforts from the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station (NCBS) in downtown Cedar Key, the same fortress that sheltered Cantore’s team during Idalia. One of their larger collaborations is a trio of “living shorelines” projects, a natural coastal resilience strategy first implemented in the small coastal community in 2017.  

“This was the first big test for these living shorelines,” Clark said, explaining that 2016’s Hurricane Hermine was a driving force behind jumpstarting the projects. “We had no guarantees the plants would make it, let alone come out somewhat unscathed.”

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Kirsten Romaguera November 29, 2023