The mangrove restoration project will affect the health and vibrancy of the Andros Barrier coral reef, the mangrove sanctuary will restore a nursery environment for marine and bird life. By restoring this wetland we will preserve an ecosystem which functions as a carbon sink, its constantly removing CO2 from the atmosphere and which protects the land during stormy times.
Healthy mangroves support biodiversity in a way which is wide ranging, affecting from the coastal communities who survive in its shelter to the marine organisms thriving throughout its wide ranging roots and the birds who find a home within its intersecting trunks and branches.
But if this ecosystem is threatened the harmonious relationship between humans and nature is threatened too, when storm surges lash the land and hurricane force winds howl, mangroves are all that stands between the community and the ocean’s rising tides. They protect the land, breaking up the motion of the high tides.
In Love Hill the flows of Davis and Love Hill Creeks have been hampered by the broken, damaged and blocked with garbage culverts which were built to maintain the flow of the fresh ocean water through the mangrove forest and as a result this vital ecosystem is failing.
A dying mangrove will lead to a dying ecosystem, a dying coral reef, a loss of biodiversity and a depletion of the natural environment which is the island of Andros’ main source of tourism related income.
Three causeways running out to the eastern shore beach, cut across the mangrove forests in the 96 hectare project site in Love Hill, these mangroves are irrigated with a series of culverts which were designed to maintain the flow of water, as our ancestors knew the importance of fresh ocean water being allowed to flush daily through the roots. The culverts are in need of repair, over the years the tunnels have been crushed, blocked or broken and are no longer functioning effectively.
The scent of a dying mangrove is that of methane gas, very unpleasant for locals and visitors
Furthermore along the causeways a tree called the casuarina pine has taken root, this invasive tree is a problem tree, its roots and needles emit tannin which dyes the mangroves a tea colour and poisons the water, under the tree becomes an ecological disaster as only the casuarina and the prevents the growth of any other vegetation.
Ancat is seeking support for the Love Hill Mangrove Restoration Project, we plan to restore four culverts to a fully functioning level, remove marine debris which is clogging the waterways, replace the invasive casuarina tree with native plant species and develop an education component visiting local schools to educate locals about the importance of a healthy mangrove to life on earth.
The mangroves are an important part of estuarine food webs. Leaves drop from the mangrove trees and are quickly decomposed by fungi and bacteria, this decomposed matter is flushed out into the open ocean by outgoing tides and provides a food source for marine life including economically important crabs and fish. An estimated 75% of game fish and 90% of the commercial species in the Bahamas are dependent upon the mangrove system for at least a part of their life cycles. The fish eat algae and clean the coral reef, to maintain its health and the mangroves protect the shoreline during storms and the effects of climate change. Mangroves also store large amounts of CO2, helping to maintain a balance in the atmosphere and serving as a carbon sink.
Mangroves offer both hard and soft bottom habitats for a diversity of invertebrates and algae who live either in or in close proximity to mangrove root systems. These roots provide an ecologically important habitat for a wide variety of fish, turtles, and marine mammals. The shallow waters and exposed mudflats make this habitat ideal for probing shorebirds such as piping plovers, roseate spoonbills, and whistling ducks.
Presently the mangrove forests in the project site are at a critical state with clogged and nonfunctioning culverts along three fragmenting causeways and invasive casuarina trees colonising these thin strips of land. The ocean water runs over the road when the tide is high. There is a desperate need to allow free flowing tidal waters to wash through the mangroves and restore life to this habitat and to remove the colonising casuarina tree. Without intervention 70% mangrove loss can be anticipated. This loss of the mangrove effectiveness is already being felt with the spread of a coral killing algae, with further effects to be anticipated. The scent of methane which is emitted by the decaying mangrove and the sight of marine debris is thoroughly offensive and off putting to the outdoor enthusiast
The project site is a swath of land lying one mile west of the Andros Barrier Reef, which is the third longest barrier reef in the world and the Southern Marine Protected Area, for these areas to flourish they must have a healthy mangrove ecosystem which feeds into them.
The Casuarina tree also known as the Australian pine has become the dominant species growing in abundance along three causeways which lead out to the beach in Love Hill, Andros. These trees are an invasive species, they have a high tannin content in foliage and saplings, making them toxic and carcinogenic. Once a mat of branch and leaf litter develops around the trees no other plant species is able to grow, thus eliminating all native plants and rendering the soil under the trees ecologically sterile.
The detritus from the Casuarina growing along the causeways also falls into the estuarine waters, changing the ph level, poisoning the water and causing the mangrove to die.
Ancat will remove casuarinas from along both sides of three causeways and replant with native species, including red and black mangroves and buttonwood trees.
Grants received in 2015 from :
Eco Ed Foundation, Tucker Foundation, Caribsave, Paradise Children’s Fund, Moore Bahamas Foundation, Lyford Cay Foundation, Scotia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, Cable Bahamas Cares Foundation and Idea Wild.