|Life springs anew on “Star Island”|
|Thursday, 13 May 2010 12:53|
The attempted creation of the “Star Island” marina and condominiums on Mangrove Cay shoal in Leeward Channel was stopped by the courts and an environmental group, but not before it destroyed thousands of conch and other marine life and silted nearby reefs.
What’s left is a barren patch of sand surrounded by rocks measuring a little more than 300 metres in circumference.
But thanks to nature and scientific research, life has sprung anew on the island in the Princess Alexandra National Park.
Earlier this year, the government granted a research permit to PARDEE Ltd. and the Caribbean Wildlife Foundation for a conservation initiative to restore impacted areas and to reduce climate change by planting mangroves.
Marsha Pardee, a marine ecologist and long-time Provo resident leading the project, has collected and sprouted mangrove seedlings and is planting them among the rocks surrounding the island between the high and low tide marks.
The idea is to build public awareness of the importance of mangroves and to create a source of mangroves to restore areas damaged by clearing for development, pollution, sedimentation and excess nutrients, Pardee said. Decreased mangrove forests decrease fisheries and increase the effects of climate changes.
Some have suggested removing the Star Island spoils to restore the area on the shoal of Mangrove Cay, but Pardee — who is regularly consulted by government and coastal engineers — says that would cause even more damage than has already been done. Instead she advocates turning it into a thriving natural part of the adjacent ecosystem.
Pardee has been experimenting with low-cost, low-tech methods of nurturing locally collected seedlings until they can be planted in impacted areas. She picked what’s left of Star Island as a visible test site to raise public awareness of the possibilities for mangrove restoration.
On Monday, May 10, Pardee planted 75 more mangroves with the help of volunteers and boats provided by Big Blue. The newly planted seedlings are tagged, measured, photographed and located by GPS so they can be mapped and monitored for their growth and survival rate during the experiment.
Approximately 140 seedlings have been planted so far, and Pardee hopes to plant a total of more than 250 with several more visits to the island.
“The program is an education campaign to bring awareness to the many benefits of the mangrove ecosystems and how they can aid in climate change stabilization,” she said. “Shoreline property owners in suitable areas will also have the opportunity to landscape their intertidal zones for their own personal property protection.”
The research includes an Adopt a Mangrove Climate Change and Restoration Campaign where people can buy mangroves that will be planted to help local and regional climate change initiatives through mangrove cultivation and restoration.
“This portion of the program will begin in mid-June, once all mangroves are planted and assessed in good health,” she said.
“Proceeds from the adoptions and donations will pay expenses to date and to expand the project further in preparation for the next nursery season.”
Mangroves help stabilize shorelines by consolidating sediments and forming peat, and protecting against storm surge, waves and wakes. They provide an important link between seagrasses and coral reefs through chemical, biological, physical and migratory activities, she said.
Mangrove forests serve as nursery grounds for juvenile marine species and provide wildlife habitat for terrestrial species. They produce leaves that decompose and become part of the food chain, as well as trapping sediments and nutrients, and filtering pollutants.
Mangroves aren’t the only new life on Star Island these days. Migrating Least Terns are currently congregating there to mate and nest, laying their tiny, well-disguised eggs on the sand. Pardee cautions that people should not venture onto the island now so as not to disrupt the birds or destroy the eggs.
While Mangrove Cay is in a nature reserve, the shoal on which Star Island is located is not. It is in a national park, which is less restrictive than a nature reserve. If the shoal had been in the nature reserve, the proposed development would have been prohibited there. So she is launching a petition to add the shoal to the nature reserve to protect it from further damage.
At this stage of the project, Pardee said supplies of mangroves for adoption are limited, so those interested should act now.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 29 May 2010 09:09|
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Links to environmental documents and laws