|“Adopt a Mangrove,” restore an ecosystem|
|Written by Kathleen Wood|
|Thursday, 06 January 2011 11:03|
TCI Protected Areas
Star Island, as it was infamously known, was to be an exclusive enclave for the rich and famous modeled after the elite addresses contained upon the artificial islands off the shores of Dubai. Rather than wealth, the creation of Star Island perpetrated an ecological poverty upon the local ecosystem that persists to this day.
An ecological cataclysm from the start, Star Island proceeded with limited environmental impact studies and then went from bad to worse. Dredge material was scraped from the nearby channel and then heaped indiscriminately into vital estuarine habitats, spreading fine silt sediments throughout the region and smothering fragile corals, seagrasses and myriad other marine habitats in the process.
Now the rightfully abandoned project mars the pristine landscape like a toxic trash heap, leaching life-choking runoff into the surrounding ecosystem with every rain.
Unfortunately, the Star Island debacle took place in the center of a critical marine habitat. The mangrove estuaries and seagrass beds that meander throughout the Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve form the basis of an extensive marine food web and juvenile foraging area that supplies the coral reefs of Grace Bay with their proverbial life’s blood.
Adding injury to the insult of sedimentation, the dredging and filling of vital estuarine habitats is now depriving the fragile reef ecosystem along the northern shoreline of Providenciales of nutrients and replenishment of species.
But all is not lost. Marine ecologist Marsha Pardee of MerAngel; the Caribbean Wildlife Foundation; and Mark Parrish of Big Blue Unlimited are trying to create vital habitats where now only dredge material exists. The goal is to create a new and vibrant mangrove community on the spoils of Star Island.
Like the keystone that supports the entire structure of an arch, mangrove communities are the foundation upon which adjacent marine ecosystems are built. As the mangroves’ leaves fall into the water, they slowly decompose releasing vital nutrients into the nearby aquatic habitats.
The large, stilt-like prop roots of the red mangrove provide a medium upon which microscopic communities of sponge, algae and corals, as diverse as tropical rainforests adhere, feeding off the rich nutrients provided by the trees. The tangled jungle of prop roots provide shelter for juvenile snapper, bonefish and other commercially important species, and the roots also stabilize the shoreline, protecting adjoining land areas from erosion and seasonal storm surges. As mangrove communities develop, they infuse the entire surrounding marine ecosystem with productivity and vitality.
For $25, supporters can adopt a mangrove. Visitors and residents are invited to participate by planting their own adopted mangrove sapling on Star Island on Big Blue’s Kayak Ecotour or to simply make a donation to the cause.
All contributors will receive a certificate of adoption by e-mail, and their names will be added to the list of supporters.
In the ecological world, to err is human. Rarely, an opportunity arises to correct environmental mistakes and make reparations. With the support of the wider Turks and Caicos Islands resident and visiting community, we can make an ecological paradise where now only a slag heap exists.
For more information on the Adopt a Mangrove Campaign, visit www.merangel.net/mangroves. To adopt a mangrove, contact Big Blue Unlimited at 649-946-5034, 649-231-6455 or
; or Marsha Pardee at
For more information on Protected Areas, visit www.environment.tc/Protected-Areas-Division.html.
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TCI Protected Areas Series
The fp is publishing a series of articles on the Turks and Caicos Islands Protected Area System to increase public awareness and respect for the beauty and value of this "beautiful by nature" country.
The authors, marine ecologist Marsha Pardee and terrestrial ecologist Kathleen Wood, are long-time TCI residents and respected scientists in their fields.
Below are links to their articles, plus related news articles, documents and laws.
- 29/7/10: Chalk Sound National Park: Beauty and ecology
- 22/7/10: Protected Areas designations and differences
- 15/7/10: Long-term prosperity vs. short-term gain
- 8/7/10: Protected Areas save environment, generate revenue
- 5/8/10: Frenchman’s Creek: Prime real estate of TCI wetlands
Related news articles
- 1/7/10: Expert report warned about encroachment on protected areas
- 8/7/10: More than 250 lots carved in Provo parks
Links to environmental documents and laws