Aruba: mangrove restoration begins at Spaans Lagoen

Today many people will see that work began to restore an area of mangrove at the northern end of Spaans Lagoen by the Frenchman’s Pass. The bridge construction has unfortunately resulted in the loss of an area of existing mangrove and whilst DOW and the contractors, with the advice of Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra), have done their best to minimise the loss and damage they recognise the need to try and compensate for this. Together with Alterra they have identified an area to the north of the lagoen where silt and sand will be excavated and removed from the site.

Based on careful calculation an ‘S-shaped’ 150m long and 2.5m wide central channel will be dug between the existing open water and the road. It will be deep enough to hold water at a depth of 50cm, even at low tide. On each side of the channel shallow sloping sides will be excavated at a gradient that will allow birds to feed and new mangrove to establish. The tide will move up and down the shallow sides of the excavation providing what the experts hope will be good conditions for the new mangrove to grow. The total width of the excavation, including the central channel will be 20m and it will extend for 90m along the channel.

Princess Beatrix was enthusiastic about the restoration when she heard about it during her visit to formally confirm the lagoen as part of Parque Arikok last week and was present to witness the first ‘ceremonial scrape’ of the new restoration. Whilst the restoration is designed to encourage natural regeneration of mangrove the Park hopes to give volunteers and members of the local community a chance to plant mangrove saplings along the line of the excavation in order that they can speed up the process.

Dr Lawrence Jones-Walters of Alterra said: “I am delighted that we have the opportunity to create an area to compensate for the loss of mangrove in the lagoon. We think we have a really good plan and really hope that it’s a success because you are always in the hands of the local conditions and the weather, too dry, too wet or too much silt. However, we will have local experts watching the site and there are things we can do to help like building temporary silt traps. I hope that local communities and others can get involved in the mangrove planting because this will bring them closer to the fantastic nature of the lagoen and Arikok as a whole”.

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