18-year-old Theo Quenee saw Hurricane Irma’s impact in Florida firsthand and realized that the region’s devastated mangroves might not make a comeback. So the local teen started growing the plants — 524 of them — from seeds he collected around his home. After about seven months, he began transplanting the mangroves to a sandbar and mud flat in Miami.

My amazing little brother has been growing over 400 red mangrove shoots he collected after Hurricane Irma. Today, 7 months later, he planted over half of the seedlings in a coastal area that had been badly affected by the storm, and I really couldn’t be prouder. from pics

Mangrove forests “stabilize the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides,” according to the National Ocean Service. But the 2017 hurricane wasn’t kind to Florida’s mangroves. Quenee told MNN, “After the hurricane there was a massive amount of [mangrove] seedlings mixed within the seaweed/debris mixture. Everything was then going to be gathered and thrown in a truck to dump at a landfill. I realized that all of South Florida would ultimately kill thousands of mangroves in the clean-up process.”

Related: Meet the teen planting 150 trees for every person on Earth

Quenee had grown mangroves in the past, and had learned about the plants in marine science classes in high school. He began to rescue mangroves, collecting ones in parking lots and streets the hurricane had damaged. He placed the plants in recycled yogurt bins. He told MNN, “I live in an area with a lot of trees, so the roof of my house was the only place that got the sunlight. I started with all 524 of them all at once…I knew that they grew best with humidity, so I designed a simple greenhouse with a big platter and a five-gallon bucket.”

After seven months of cultivation, the plants were ready to return to the wild. Some friends helped him move the mangroves to the Miami sandbar. He told MNN he’s working to obtain any additional permits required, although he said some officials passed by as he was planting the mangroves and they were happy to see his work.

A Florida International University freshman, Quenee aims to pursue videography and photography as a career (check out his work on his Instagram). But conservation will still be one of his priorities; he told MNN, “…in the future I also want to change the way we consume single-use plastics and teach younger generations and communities how to properly conserve our environments.”

Via Mother Nature Network

Image via Depositphotos