“Jonah Basi may be 16 years old and a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, but he’s got a big vision for what he wants South Florida to look like in the future.
“I want to see huge green mangroves all along the seawalls that I know are contributing to that cleaner water,” he says. “A blue waterway that’s reflecting the sky and not reflecting the toxins and everything that’s in it. And a waterway that’s not filled with trash.”
And he’s not waiting for anyone else to do it. Basi, who founded the nonprofit MangroLife, is getting his hands dirty and being the change he wants to see in the world.
“This is the most important fight there is for me,” he says. “This is the topic of my college application essays. This is all I talk about.”
Heartbroken to see the constant garbage and pollution clogging the Fort Lauderdale waterway behind his family’s new home, he decided to do something about it — not just collecting trash, but seeds of life.
Propagules are the seeds produced by red mangroves. Basi finds them floating on the water, and since last fall he’s been planting them, first along the seawall behind his home, then growing them in tanks and replanting the seedlings in pots as they grow.
“But those ones, instead of keeping them on our property we’ve always had the intention to transplant them,” he says.
And that’s how MangroLife was born. Baby mangroves, nurtured by Basi in his backyard until they’re big and strong enough to be replanted where they’re needed most — along the shorelines and seawalls, near ailing waters desperate for the good they bring.
“They’re probably our most important plant life,” he says. “Mangroves do so many things. For one, they’re a habitat for a ton of different local fish and birds.”
They’re also nature’s filters, absorbing pollutants and nutrient runoff from fertilizers and sewage spills that cause algae to grow in the water and kill seagrass beds and all marine life in the habitat.
“And the mangroves, since they’re traditional plants, they can take in that fertilizer and make use of it to stimulate their own growth while at the same time keeping the fertilizer from doing harm,” Basi says.
Mangroves can also mitigate sea-level rise and protect our coast from destructive storm surge.
“When you have tons of them on a seawall their roots can actually stop a hurricane-force wave from doing any real damage,” Basi says….