Community groups and scientists piloting mangrove nurseries to restore wetlands

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Community groups and scientists piloting mangrove nurseries to restore wetlands

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PRESS RELEASE – Next week, officers from the Departments of Forestry and Fisheries, staff of the Saint Lucia National Trust, and community members from Vieux Fort and Praslin will join regional experts to establish mangrove nurseries that will help replenish the island’s critically threatened wetlands.

The project is an initiative of the Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network (ECMMAN), and will result in the establishment of two temporary nurseries, as well as the training of community representatives and over ten Forestry and Fisheries officers.

The planned activities emphasize community participation and ownership so that these persons become the stewards of mangroves beyond the life of the project. The community members will be involved in all aspects of the work including nursery establishment, seedling collection, planting of healthy seedlings back into the wetlands and monitoring of the environmental conditions at the sites.

Alleyne Regis of PCI Media Impact  who is leading the community engagement component says, “Some persons in Saint Lucia understand the value of healthy mangroves while others still regard it as ‘swampland’. However, with support from the communities and partners in Vieux Fort and Praslin, there is a sense of hope. It is refreshing to see the survival and sustainability of such a valuable plant species be embraced by the communities”.

The project overlaps the international recognition of Earth Day on April 22nd, which focuses on the 2016 theme “Trees for the Earth”. Mangroves are one of the most critical trees in the Eastern Caribbean. They provide a breeding ground for fish and protect shorelines from the negative impacts of strong waves and wind.

According to an assessment by the Forestry Department in 2014, over 90% of mangroves and wetlands in Saint Lucia are threatened by the illegal dumping of trash and encroachment from development.

The Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) has been implementing activities related to sustainable use of the Ma Kôté mangroves for more than two decades. Mr. Craig Henry, the SLNT’s Programme Officer with responsibility for Pointe Sable Environmental Protection Area (PSEPA), home of the Ma Kôté mangroves says “there is a problem of severe die back within this critical wetland. This project is timely as the training, environmental monitoring and replanting components are actions which have been identified as effective steps towards remediation”.

Ma Kôté is the largest mangrove system in Saint Lucia and is protected by the international RAMSAR Convention; an intergovernmental treaty that protects ecologically important wetlands in an effort to achieve sustainable development throughout the world.

Expert training will be provided by Dr. Gregg Moore, a restoration scientist from the University of New Hampshire, and the Grenada Fund for Conservation Inc., which has conducted similar mangrove projects in Grenada since 2007. Dr. Steve Schill, a Senior Scientist from The Nature Conservancy will use drone technology to map the aerial extent of the existing mangroves.

Over 500 red mangrove seedlings will be planted next week to investigate whether the sites have the required environmental conditions to ensure that once fully planted out, the restoration activities will be successful.

Data collected over the course of the project will inform coastal management decisions and the creation of a permanent nursery that promises long-term restoration of Saint Lucia’s wetlands.

The ECMMAN project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and will run until 2017. Additional funding is provided by USAID through the OECS Commission.

For more information, interviews, or interest in attending training events as a media representative, please contact:

Craig Henry, Programme Officer, Saint Lucia National Trust (758-454-5014 or [email protected])

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