Co-Funded by the EU’S RESEMBID PROGRAM and Wageningen University & Research, PILOT PROJECT ‘TURNING THE TIDE’ launches in Aruba
Published on March 13, 2023
ORANJESTAD, ARUBA – 3 MARCH 2023 – Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba (FPNA) in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research, ScubbleBubbles, and University of Aruba, are proud to announce the launch of “Turning the Tide”, a pilot project aimed at hands-on rehabilitation of Aruba’s spatially linked coral reefs and mangroves. This 15-month project is co-funded by RESEMBID and Wageningen University & Research with an allocated fund of EUR 713,000 for this project to help turn the tide of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss to a healthy and resilient marine environment for Aruba. During its execution and upon completion, this project is integrated into the management of Parke Marino Aruba to guarantee continuity and lasting impacts for the island.
RESEMBID is a 48-project progam funded by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France – the development cooperation agency of the Government of France and supports sustainable human development efforts in 12 Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) – Aruba, Anguilla, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Montserrat, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Barthélemy, Sint Maarten and Turks and Caicos.
What’s the problem?
According to WWF Fund for Nature’s Living Planet Report 2022, the biodiversity loss by region is declining far greater across Latin America and the Caribbean than any other region. A 94% decrease of biodiversity was seen between 1970 and 2018. The 5th and 6th national reports of the Netherlands for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD 2014, 2019) also reported a disturbing message on the condition of the marine environment in the Dutch Caribbean with the conservation status being insufficient with no measurable positive change. A TEEB-study (2018) for Aruba concluded that the ongoing degradation of its marine environment will eventually not only suppress its small but valuable local fishery sector but also reduce tourist numbers and ultimately overall welfare by 50%. More recent studies conclude the same (CBA2020, Oduber 2020, Alberts 2021). Therefore, it is crucial to turn the tide towards a healthy and resilient marine environment where human uses are in harmony with nature.
How do we solve the problem?
To start solving this problem on a national level it is important that it is recognized in the Aruban policy notes and plans. The seriousness of unsustainable development and the loss of ecosystem services is reflected in the Nature and Environment policy note 2018-2021, the Economic Policy 2019-2021, the National Strategic Plan 2020-2022 and the SDG Roadmap.
In addition, Aruba enacted the Parke Marino Aruba managed by Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba in 2018. Aruba is currently in the process of designating an even larger area of its marine coastal areas as protected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, thereby supported by local NGOs and partner Wageningen Environmental Research (WENR). Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba is in the process of finalizing its Marine Management Plan for implementation which is put together using valuable input from over 60 different local stakeholders. All the activities carried out under the current project will take place in designated nature areas managed by FPNA. Lastly, the on-going “Turning the Tide” project is expected to tackle the lack of human capacity and financial resources by implementing a long-term sustained joint field implementation project which will continue far after the finalization of the project in April 2024.
What does the project entail?
“Turning the Tide” is expected to contribute to the restoration and conservation of a healthy and resilient coastal marine environment for Aruba, in which native marine biodiversity thrives, while its ecosystem services contribute to the welfare of future generations on the island. The EUR713K fund that has been allocated for the execution of this project will cover:
Coral Reef Restoration: Aruba’s coral ecosystem has entered a double negative spiral. Due to the disappearance of the stony and branching corals, the three-dimensional structure has disappeared. This leads to an increased vulnerability to erosion, causing even more coral loss and loss of clean hard substrate for coral settlement. In addition, the decline in stony corals causes that the function of shelter and nursery for key herbivorous species such as fish and sea urchins disappear due to the lack of suitable shelter. Grazing herbivorous species are extremely important for the health of corals in Aruba because they prevent overgrowth of the corals by algae. The pilot project will focus on active interventions by placing artificial reefs across 3 different seabed locations located within the Parke Marino Aruba. The artificial reefs will recreate the three-dimensional structure. With these structures in place, key herbivorous species can be restored over time, macroalgae can be grazed more intensively, and new coral can re-establish on the reef. To kick-start the settling of corals on the artificial structures, the project will actively plant coral fragments onto the reefs (Elkhorn and Staghorn corals).
Mangrove Forest Restoration: Aruba’s mangrove forests have also seen a negative spiral caused by sedimentation. This causes reduction in water depth and surface area which in turn causes mortality of mangroves and destroys its fish nursery function. With the pilot project, construction of sediment traps will reduce the influx of sediments, while the reopening of mangrove channels will enhance the flow of clean water, thereby enhancing mangrove ecological rehabilitation. Spaans Lagoen is one of the target sites for mangrove restoration under current project. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) concerning the (silted) mangroves in Spaans Lagoen and the management recommendations will serve as the starting point for the excavations of trapped sediment at this site. The reopening of channels will focus on the thick mangrove forest of Isla di Oro for its nursery function directly adjacent to the sea.
Awareness Building: “Turning the Tide” aims to raise awareness about the conservation status of, and trends in the marine habitats and ecosystem services. In addition, it aims to communicate how these can be restored and what the impact would be on the local community. Above all, the desired impact is to raise awareness of the fact that a healthy marine habitat not only is essential for biodiversity, but also for the local economy and welfare.
Turning the Tide and Parke Marino Aruba
Parke Marino Aruba is managed by Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba and consists of four Marine Protected Areas (MPA), namely MPA Arikok, Sero Colorado, Mangel Halto and Oranjestad. The marine protected areas host valuable biodiversity, including many native species, almost all of the island’s mangroves, patches of seagrass beds, coral reefs, reef islets for tern breeding, and nursery and feeding habitats for dolphins, turtles and sharks.
Over the past year, FPNA has been working on its Marine Management Plan which is expected to be implemented later this year. Stakeholder input collected during the “SWOT Analysis” workshop in 2021 and the most recent “Zoning and Regulations” workshop has been crucial in the planning of this pilot project. As a result of the workshops, stakeholder input identified six conservation targets that will be the focus for Parke Marino Aruba, with Coral Ecosystem, Reef Fish and Mangrove Ecosystem as top priorities – all of which are focus points within the “Turning the Tide” project. The stakeholder input will also contribute to the selection of the most suitable sites for the placement of the artificial reef structures.
The development of the “Turning the Tide” project will be shared externally throughout the 15-month project duration and will end with the publication of a short documentary.
For more information on RESEMBID, visit www.resembid.org.