FPNA participated in regional mangrove conservation workshop

Published on November 5, 2021

Recently, Ranger Anthony Koolman and Research & Conservation Manager Giancarlo Nunes of Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba (FPNA) visited Bonaire to participate in a regional workshop hosted and sponsored by Mangrove Maniacs, STINAPA Bonaire, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and the Regional Activity Centre for the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (CAR-SPAW).

In 2020, FPNA became the conservation management organization of numerous new protected areas in Aruba, including mangrove areas. According to Nunes “FPNA has already started working on reforestation within the Parke Nacional Arikok and will soon start working on mangrove restoration as well. To be able to do this properly, we first want to learn as much as possible from our colleagues with already decades of experience.”

“The week-long workshop was intensive and very worthwhile. During the series of presentations, we learned a lot about what the different islands in the Caribbean are doing in the way of mangrove restoration projects, which includes fixing the water quality, making channels to enhance water flow, and removing garbage, as often mangroves are used as dumping grounds. We also learned that our colleagues on the other islands are dealing with the same threats we face here in Aruba: the impacts of pollution, grazing, and siltation caused by soil erosion from by unsustainable agriculture, development and building in watersheds, which all impact the mangrove ecosystem in a negative way,” Nunes states passionately.

Koolman and Nunes also went on various field trips, they visited the Lac Bay black mangrove area where channel digging was done to enhance water circulation and restore water quality. Within a few years, this area went from dying to flourishing mangroves with a lot of life in it and bird and aquatic life returned. In the deeper water red mangrove areas, siltation has caused problems and here also channels were dug to fix water circulation. The workshop participants also spent some hours pruning mangroves to maintain the water flow and planted buttonwood mangroves in the higher situated, dryer areas.

Ranger Koolman was deeply impressed by the beneficial results of years of dedication by a large group of volunteers. Koolman returned to Aruba excited to teach his fellow rangers and start working on flora conservation. “This was a magnificent experience for me to be able to learn more from professionals and experts from the other islands. Now I am even more eager to restore Aruba’s native trees and our mangroves to the benefit of nature and Aruba’s people”.

The ABC islands have been heavily impacted by centuries of logging, land clearing and grazing by domestic animals such as donkeys and goats. The field visits to Echo Bonaire and the Tera Barra Nature Park projects were in that sense a real eye-opener. These reforestation projects were deliberately fenced off from goats, who would otherwise strip the trees bare, and eat all the seedlings and other plants. Goats especially impact the slow growing native trees. From their nurseries, both projects grow especially rare, native trees for outplanting. Within 10 years, the managed areas went from bare ground with only a few cacti to lush forests of more than a thousand trees and shrubs, through active as well as natural reforestation by seed dispersing birds. Reforestation projects contribute to the conservation of native biodiversity, help improve the soil and combat climate change by growing native evergreen trees that absorb carbon and other gases, and combat heat by providing shade, making our islands more livable in the future.