South Florida brothers team up to restore world’s lost mangroves

For over 100 years as South Florida’s coastline was developed, acres upon acres of mangroves were destroyed in the process.

JUPITER, Fla. – For over 100 years as South Florida’s coastline was developed, acres upon acres of mangroves were destroyed in the process.

In recent years we’ve begun to understand just how vital mangroves are to protecting our shores and cleaning up our waterways.

Two Palm Beach County brothers recognized that and launched a company with the goal of restoring the world’s lost mangroves.

They’re doing it by selling hats and shirts, changing the world by planting one mangrove at a time.

On the day Local 10 News met up with the brothers, as the sun rose over the historic lighthouse on the Jupiter Inlet, a team of dedicated volunteers began to plant the first of 1,000 baby mangroves on an eroding shore where these ancient trees once dominated the coastline.

“We are putting back what was once here and we are using natural elements to stabilize eroding shorelines,” said Peter Dewitt, program manager for the Bureau of Land Management of the Jupiter Inlet outstanding natural area.

Red mangroves are the first line of defense against storm surge and sea level rise -- nature’s carbon sinks that suck up greenhouse gases and provide critical habitat for birds, fish and marine life while filtering out sediment and pollution.

“These mangroves are our future. They’re the future stability of our economy. They’re protecting our ecosystems, protecting our shorelines and protecting our community for the future,” said Mang co-founder Keith Rossin.

That’s why 30-year-old twin brothers Keith and Kyle Rossin are on an urgent mission to plant as many mangroves as they can.

“Mangroves add value to our shorelines,” Kyle Rossin said.

So together they created “Mang,” a high performance outdoor apparel brand with a commitment to plant one mangrove for every product they sell.

“Buy one, plant one,” Kyle Rossin said. “It all started with our passion to protect the environment.”

The seed was planted six years ago inside their mother’s garage that today is still an overflow space for inventory.

Their first product was a trucker hat that soon flowered into a line of high performance UPF-50 shirts designed by Keith and their aunt Sheri.

Meanwhile in mom’s backyard, a mangrove nursery began to flourish.

Kyle Rossin said they have roughly 20,000 mangroves.

“The nursery cycles through about 10,000 a year, so each year we run an annual propagule collection campaign,” he explained.

Together with a team of volunteers, the brothers collect red mangrove propagules found floating in waterways, then plant and grow them here until they’re big enough to be transplanted where they’re needed most.

“We look at these as our children, these are our next generation for fisheries, for our coastlines,” Keith Rossin said.

In 2016, the brothers organized their first mangrove restoration project in the Earman River in Palm Beach County. Six years later, they’ve grown Mang into a multi-million dollar company and have planted over 377,000 mangroves worldwide.

“They’re really, at the end of the day, what keeps us protected in the state. What keeps Florida’s coastlines looking like the shape of Florida,” Keith Rossin said.

Keith Rossin has a degree in horticulture, and Kyle Rossin has a degree in environmental studies.

Together they conduct the symphony of volunteers strategically planting the young mangroves along the shore of the Jupiter Inlet where the small trees are sure to thrive.

Many of these volunteers are the same ones who help the brothers collect the propagules and care for the seedlings.

“I live here, I fish here, and it’s going to make me happy to come by on our boat and see the mangroves that I planted out here every day,” said 15-year-old volunteer Owen Eagen.

And in just under two hours, all 1,000 baby mangroves were planted.

“Two hours ago this was an eroded shoreline. Now it’s green, it’s beautiful, it’s habitat,” Dewitt said. “Five years from now, these mangroves will be 5 feet high, incredibly scenic, and a great opportunity for everybody viewing the lighthouse and everybody visiting the park.”

It’s a fact not lost on these brother’s who’ve vowed to change the world, one mangrove at a time.

“Six years ago, I couldn’t have imagined doing a project at the Jupiter lighthouse. I’m at the Jupiter lighthouse -- we’re standing at the Jupiter lighthouse. One of the most iconic spots in Palm Beach County,” Kyle Rossin said. “I’ll be 40 years old in 10 years. And I’ll be able to come and drive my boat here and this stand will be 15 feet tall. And I will be thrilled to know that we had an impact on the community here in Jupiter.”

“It fills my heart up to know that we’re building something that’s greater than us, that’s a legacy that will live on beyond us,” Keith Rossin said.

This past weekend, the Mang brothers planted 2,200 red mangroves in Grand Bahama.

In December, they’ll be planting mangroves in Costa Rica just as they have here in Florida, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Philippines and Honduras.

Click here to learn more about Mang and how you can be a part of their mission.

You can also visit their Instagram page by clicking here.

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.