Saint Vincent Island | Appalachian Sands and Rising Seas

Saint Vincent Island | Appalachian Sands and Rising Seas


[Music]>>Velma Frye (singing): Where the Apalachicola
meets the warm Gulf waters, And pairs of oystercatchers raise their sons
and daughters, And baby turtles, crawl to the sea,
And swim the first mile on a long journey. They need Saint Vincent Island,
Rare and free, Where wild things live in harmony.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Oceanographer Jeff
Chanton… And author Susan Cerulean… Are a married couple with intersecting professional
interests. That intersection is physically located on
Florida’s Forgotten Coast, and centered specifically on St. Vincent Island. Saint Vincent Island is a National Wildlife
Refuge, established as a 12,500-acre sanctuary for migratory birds. As storms threatened off the coast, we explored
the wildest beaches in our area.>>Susan Cerulean: We first started coming
out here twenty years ago for recreation with our kids.>>Jeff Chanton: Just for the exploring aspects
of it.>>Susan Cerulean: The wild aspect of it. But then about ten years ago, the kids were
gone. We had more time to talk. And we started just asking each other questions,
mostly me asking Jeff questions about the same things you’re curious about. How did this island come to be? What forces are affecting it? And we were already in love with the island
and all of the wild things here, so how will they be affected long term? That’s when I started taking notes and putting
together that book. It’s been a good ten years.>>Velma Frye (singing): Saint Vincent Island,
Let it be, Forever a sanctuary.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: St. Vincent Island
was created by climate change, sea level rise, and the Apalachicola River.>>Jeff Chanton: Sea level started rising about
18,000 years ago. Barrier Islands didn’t form until sea level
kind of reached a steady point. It was kind of rising rapidly at first and
it slowed down and that’s when the barrier islands formed. And unlike most barrier islands in Florida,
this is a big, thick, fat one. And that’s because of the high sediment
supply coming off the Apalachicola River.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: But the island is
disappearing.>>Jeff Chanton: Well this is a tree that used
to live here. Tree like this, or any trees->>Susan Cerulean: A cedar tree.>>Jeff Chanton: It’s a cedar- don’t usually
live in the water. They’re not as interested in waterfront
opportunities as people are. And so one of the signs of shoreline erosion
is to see these dead trees, and turned over trees, right in the surf.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Saint Vincent Island
is being consumed by the very forces that created it.>>Jeff Chanton: Greenhouse gas production
and the warming earth causes the oceans to warm up, and when seawater warms up, it expands
and it takes up more room. So that’s one component of sea level rise. And then the other component of sea level
rise is the melting glacial ice on land. And so both of those things combine to raise
sea level. And that causes erosion and retreat on barrier
islands like you see here.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: A network of dams
and reservoirs on the Apalachicola/ Chattahoochee/ Flint Basin play a role as well. We often think of these dams in terms of the
Apalachicola Bay estuary, and oysters deprived of fresh water. But water’s not the only thing being held
back.>>Jeff Chanton: All those dams are going to
impound the sand that runs down the rivers and makes up these barrier islands. So they become sediment starved, or sand starved. And I think both these processes might be
important on this island.>>Velma Frye (singing): Love the dolphins
and the eagles and the shrimp and mullet, The pelicans are hungry for a fish in their
gullet, From my small kayak, watching the plover,
I vowed that I’d never let the fight be over. Keeping Saint Vincent Island,
Rare and free, Where wild things live in harmony.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: On the other side
of the island, we meet John Stark, the refuge manager. He has some good news to share.>>John Stark: The previous record for loggerhead
sea turtle nests was 104, and we had our 110th nest this morning, so this is a record year. We’re pretty excited about that, and we’re
not into august yet, so; We don’t expect many more nests, but we
do expect more nests. So this is very clearly a record year. So we’re very excited about that.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Loggerheads, along
with Red Wolves and many of the migratory birds that stop here, are endangered or threatened. As St. Vincent Island changes, its ability
to function as a refuge for these species will be affected. With that in mind, Jeff is pursuing a grant
to measure the effects of sea level rise on the island.>>Susan Cerulean: There are no human habitations
on this island. Basically, the ecological processes that are
natural to a coastal island are taking place here. So it’s a really perfect lab to look at
the best scenario for an island.>>John Stark: To come here is to see Florida,
as it was, and as it is in its most natural state. It’s a fairly unique experience.>>Velma Frye (singing): Saint Vincent Island,
Let it be, Forever a sanctuary.>>Rob Diaz de Villegas: Just made it. For WFSU, I’m Rob Diaz de Villegas.

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