SIMPSON BAY:--- Over the last two weekends, staff, volunteers, and partners of the foundation Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) planted 300 mangrove tree seedlings on Little Key Island in the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Earlier this year, EPIC started a restoration project of three key sites in St. Maarten. By planting native tree species, EPIC is restoring and increasing habitat for flora and fauna, thereby improving biodiversity on the island.
One of these sites is at Little Key Island on the Simpson Bay Lagoon, which is important due its potential as mangrove habitat.
With their rare ability to live in salt water, mangrove trees provide unique habitat for a large variety of animals and act as a nursery, protecting young fish before they head out to sea. Mangroves also protect shorelines from storms, filter toxins from water, and provide recreational areas (ecotourism and diving). These remarkable trees are also excellent at absorbing carbon, a crucial part of halting climate change. Due to all these qualities, several attempts to plant and restore mangroves on this island have been carried out in the past.
Research in mangrove restoration shows that one of the most damaging factors for mangrove plant survival is waves hitting young plants. The lagoon is no exception to this problem, where a large number of passing boats increase wave activity, impacting young mangrove trees.
EPIC, therefore, decided to reduce wave damage to mangrove seedlings by using the “encased planting method”; mangrove seedlings are planted inside PVC (plastic) tubes, which act similar to plant pots, protecting the mangroves from damaging waves. When the plants reach a certain size and can survive on their own, the PVC tubes can be easily removed from the tree trunk without impacting the environment.
EPIC will now closely monitor the growth and survival of the mangroves at the restoration site. In addition to the project’s value to biodiversity, it also testing and defining the most effective method to restore mangrove trees for future Lagoon restorations.
EPIC would like to thank the Nature Foundation of St. Maarten for assisting with boat transport and the dedicated staff and volunteers who made this project so successful. Appreciation also to St. Maarten Sails and Canvas for helping with boats, cutting PVC, and collecting mud for planting trees. Mark Yokoyama of Les Fruits de Mer assisted with an assessment of Little Key biodiversity after Hurricane Irma. This project is made possible through the support of the BEST 2.0 Program as well as the hurricane recovery funds of EPIC and BirdsCaribbean.
EPIC Press Release