On the day after #WorldMangroveDay, a coalition of motivated and dedicated volunteers from all over the Keys joined forces on Pigeon Key to plant over 1,000 red mangrove seedlings. Mangroves protect coastlines from storm surge and erosion, sequester carbon, and absorb harmful nutrient runoff that can kill corals. Hurricane Irma destroyed almost all the critical mangrove habitat on the island, so the Pigeon Key Foundation and Marine Science Center worked to get native mangroves to the island and volunteers to plant them. Last October, the Conch Republic Marine Army collected thousands of mangrove propagules to help with this effort. Florida mangrove restoration organization MANG grew the propagules into year-old seedlings in its mainland nurseries and led restoration efforts for the day. “You’re going to have to dig deep and get a little dirty,” Mang co-founder Kyle Rossin told the crowd. Armed with buckets of “baby mangs” and tools to help dig on the rocky shores, volunteers from local schools and organizations took up his challenge. Monroe County Mayor Michelle Coldiron even joined in the effort, naming each of her seedlings and wishing them well. “Thank you. As mayor of Monroe County, I thank you,” she said in earnest. The hope is that the mangroves will take root and revive this ecosystem.