16-year-old Jonah Basi created an organization to save the mangroves of Florida.
In 2015, the UNESCO General Conference proclaimed July 26 as the International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystems. Thus, the organization drew attention to the problem of preserving unique and vulnerable mangrove forests, which are disappearing 3-5 times faster than other forests. In southern Florida, mangrove ecosystems ensure the well-being of local flora and fauna.
Jonah Basi is an unusual teenager: he preferred doing important things to computer games and social networks and spends all his free time in nature in the company of his parents and friends.
“We moved to a new house at the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020. This is our first house right on the water. My mother and I really like paddleboarding. We often rowed up and down the channels and noticed garbage, and we began to collect it. And then there came a time when mangrove seedlings began to fall from the trees – we watched them swim in the water and could not find the shore. We began to collect them, too. My mother knows a lot about mangrove forests, and I learned from her about the great benefits that they bring: they help in the fight against soil erosion, they provide a habitat for different types of fish, are a source of food for wild birds, and animals, they help filter out nutrients in the water that cause algae blooms – this is a serious problem here in southern Florida,” Jonah Basi, co-founder and board member of the MangroLife organization, told.
Garbage collection on weekends with parents and friends, collecting mangrove fruits turned into a hobby, and then the non-profit organization “MangroLife” was born, which was headed by 16-year-old Jonah.
Today, in the backyard in water tanks, the Basi family sprouts mangroves, when the sprouts become strong, Jonah gathers volunteers for a clean-up day.
“My mom is a great environmentalist, just like my dad. And when I was very young, they tried to instill in me the environmental values that every resident of South Florida should have, – says Jonah. – Besides, I think they’re great parents, too. I couldn’t have done it without them. Our first press release was completely printed by my father because he knows how to do such things. I am mainly engaged in collecting volunteers, my mother is very good at establishing relations with city and local authorities to organize planting plants. So, the three of us, we all need each other for the success of this project.”
Mangroves are native plants of southern Florida. Evergreen deciduous forests feel great in the tropics, on the water, where there are gentle shores, high tides without strong waves, and slightly salted water, like in the Miami canals. Now, due to the active construction and strengthening of the shores with sea dams, the land for mangroves is becoming less and less.
“We are at a tipping point, and if we don’t start doing more today, it will be too late,” said Jessica Basi, Jonah’s mother.
“Mangrove forests are a unique resource of South Florida. They can really grow only in such a coastal climate. And the good that they do distinguishes them from other plants,” explains Jonah. They provide a habitat for endangered fish species. For example, the common robalo is a very popular fish for fishing here. And I am sure that many local fishermen would like to preserve the robalo population, but this is impossible without mangroves. The same can be said about the local wild birds. Without mangroves, we will not be able to solve the problem of algae blooming. It seems that today, every weekend, red algae began to bloom, and tons of fish are dying. For those who appreciate amateur fishing, we must preserve the fish population; prevent algae blooms where we can. And mangroves do it better than anything else in the world.”
Basi’s family obviously knows not only the secret of how to grow healthy mangrove forests, but also a teenager who enthusiastically helps nature and involves his peers in the actions of his organization for cleaning the coast and transplanting sprouts.
“The pandemic helped us; we made the most of the situation: we did everything outdoors, on the water, my son could invite friends. They were in a safe environment, paddle boarding and having fun, and at the same time they were learning to contribute to improving the state of nature,” said Joe Basi, Jonah’s dad.
“My oceanography teacher in high school inspired me to really take care of mangroves, and he explained to me how important they are for our region where I grew up. I am trying to instill this in my son, and he is very passionate about it. We are very proud of him,” the teenager’s mother added.
It’s not just his parents who are proud of Jonah. Many local media have already written about the young volunteer and his organization, which takes care of the mangrove forests of South Florida, and thus attracted even more volunteers to help the Basi family in their fight for the state’s ecosystem.