Nature Foundation Calls on Businesses to use Biodegradable and Reusable Products

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is calling on all businesses, stores, bars, restaurants, tour operators and event organizers to start using biodegradable and reusable products instead of single-use plastics. Single-use plastic is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation and a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg landfill. A lot of our single-use plastics end up in our environment and ocean due to littering and poor garbage disposal. Besides, St Maarten just cannot handle the large amount of single-use plastic waste, our dump is already overfilled.

“All businesses can contribute to reduce the single-use plastics on our island and reduce the input of these toxic materials to our environment and landfill. Biodegradable disposable products are already available on our island; the more businesses will shift to biodegradable alternatives the lower the prices will go and availability will increase. Paper straws, paper or sugar cane plates, bamboo plates, biodegradable cups, paper food containers, paper bags, wooden cutlery and much more are all already available on St Maarten and carried by suppliers such as PDG and Merchants Market. Businesses do not have to use single-use plastics, which are impacting and damaging our environment, nature and even us. We are asking all establishments to go green and reduce their single-use plastics, to use reusable products or biodegradable products instead” stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

At least 9 million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year, a rate that has increased 100 times in the past 40 years. If current trends continue there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Single use plastic bags, plastic straws, cutlery and Styrofoam food containers are some of the most environmentally damaging products on our island. These items do not biodegrade and stay in the ecosystem and oceans forever, causing impacts to the environment, animals and humans. Plastic releases harmful chemicals when it breaks down into smaller pieces that are ingested by marine life and eventually humans.

“Several businesses already switched to biodegradable alternatives instead of single-use plastics, such as Dinghy Dock Bar, Buccaneers Beach Bar and Coconut Reef Tours. We very welcome these initiatives and hope many more businesses will follow. Any business, store, bar, restaurant or tour operator who would like to receive more information about the possibilities to switch to biodegradable and reusable alternatives for single-use plastics can contact the Nature Foundation” continued Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern Nature Foundation’s Project Officer.

All around the world eco-tourism is in the rise and plastic free movements are getting more popular as the tremendous impacts of single-use plastics are inescapable. To keep St Maarten a popular destination for the future and to protect our natural beauty, the change to a more eco-friendly destination need to be made including the use of biodegradable and reusable products. Through the Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project, the Nature Foundation is fighting plastic pollution and is teaching and encouraging residents, children and businesses to reduce their plastic waste output and clean-up the environment.

Picture 1: Every day several Styrofoam food containers are fished out by the Nature Foundation from the Simpson Bay lagoon.

Picture 2: Single-use plastics views in our natural environments are ordinary instead of being the exception.

Nature Foundation’s Kids Shark Day great success!

kids in shark customes

On Saturday the 9th of June, the Nature Foundation organized a very successful Shark Day for children at Buccaneer Beach Bar, which was attended by about 100 kids. The kids had great fun and learned everything about sharks through games, quizzes and activities. Kids could even be a real scientist by learning everything about shark research and tagging.

“We have over 400 different shark species in our oceans; you can find sharks in the size of 6 inch up to 40 feet. They are in our ocean for more than 400 million years, reasons enough to protect these species and learn about them! Kids attending the event learned all these facts about sharks, the media often likes to portray sharks as killing machines, however the facts shows us completely the opposite. Occasionally shark bites do happen, however no unprovoked attack has been ever recorded on St. Maarten. It is more likely that you get killed by a coconut falling on your head than by a shark.  It is safe to swim and dive with sharks; it is time to change their image’ stated Nature Foundations Project Office Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

During the event 23 kids attended the special Shark and Art Workshop from Carla Templeton and made beautiful art on specialized tiles, creating the opportunity for the kids to work on their art skills while considering sharks. Environmental Protection in the Caribbean was there as well to teach the kids about mangroves and their importance in protecting our coastlines and fish stocks.

“It looks like Shark Day is getting more popular every year, however this year is the last year of funding through the ‘Save our Sharks’ project. We hope we are able to find a way to continue funding for this great event, as it is getting very famous on St Maarten” says Nature Foundations Project Office Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Thanks to all the volunteers and Buccaneer Beach Bar for making this event happening! St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

kids in shark customes
Dressing up as shark masquotes during shark week

Nature Foundation Teaches Milton Peters College Students About Coral Reefs, Mangroves and Littering

Last week the Nature Foundation visited the second form of Milton Peters College to teach the students about the importance of our coral reefs and about the Foundation’s Coral Restoration Project. Worldwide coral reefs are declining due to global warming, pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction, St Maarten’s coral reefs are also facing several threats and Hurricane Irma left a large impact as well. The Coral Restoration Project is aimed to restore St Maarten reefs with Staghorn and Elkhorn coral species by establishing a coral nursery to grow coral and transplant them back to selected sites. “The students were amazed by the corals and their beauty; hopefully we inspired them to help protect our coral reefs!” says Nature Foundations Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Additionally, the first form of Milton Peters Collage students visited Mullet Pond and learned about the importance of mangroves and wetlands, and how they protect us from storm surge. “Mullet pond is listed and protected as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty. Wetlands, including Mullet Pond, are vital for human survival. They are among the world’s most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival. They also provide countless benefits or “ecosystem services” ranging from biodiversity, to flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation. With the visit of Mullet Pond we created the opportunity for these students to see and learn about this important wetland habitat themselves” continued the manager Tadzio Bervoets.

The students also learned about the impact of trash on marine life and therefore performed a cleanup at Mullet Bay Beach as part of the Reduce and Reuse St. Maarten project. About 25 students collected 370.95 pounds of trash in just half an hour, by using the Trash Tracker method developed by Ocean Cleanup Organization 4Oceans by weighing all the collected trash and using reusable bags and gloves. “We are proud on these students because of their hard work this day, achievements and willingness to help the environment of St Maarten. These students maybe the future generation to protect our natural environment and that is very much needed on St Maarten!” concluded a Nature Foundation statement.

Sunken Houseboat Successfully Removed from Mullet Pond Ramsar Site

Sint Maarten’s most important wetland, Mullet Pond, was cleared of the massive houseboat that sank after Hurricane Irma on Wednesday. With the help of local dive company Atlantech Divers the Foundation was able to remove the houseboat to a location outside of the conservation zone. “We are so very grateful to the team from Atlantech Divers Jaco Pieterse and Mason Chadwick for their assistance in removing the houseboat,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager. The Foundation previously cleaned and restored sections of Mullet Pond as part of the organization’s environmental response post hurricanes Irma and Maria, however the Houseboat proved too much for the organization’s limited resources. Mullet Pond is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty. The Ramsar Convention, signed in Iran in 1971, is a global commitment to maintain the ecological character of global wetland areas, including in the wider Caribbean region.

Mullet Pond is a critical ecosystem for the island as it contains the last intact mangrove forest within the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Unfortunately the area was also illegally used in the storms as a protected anchorage and numerous boats sank.

“Because of its unique characteristics and international status we made the clean-up and restoration of Mullet Pond one of our priorities during the clean-up and restoration phase post-irma. We have also discussed with the authorities ways in which we can place moorings outside of critical nature habitat in the area so that vessel owners can still protect their vessels while at the same time protecting sensitive natural areas. In particular the houseboat which illegally sought shelter in the area caused significant damage and we need to prevent this in the future,” concluded Bervoets.

 

 

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Gives Update to King and Queen of Netherlands on Environmental Impacts and Restoration Activities Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria

On Saturday the 2nd of December the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation gave an update to Their Majesties King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands on the environmental impacts and the organization’s activities post Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Royal Couple, accompanied by State Secretary for Kingdom Relations Mr. Henk Knopps, were in Sint Maarten to get an idea how the island is recovering after suffering catastrophic damage during the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The Royals were also interested in the impacts on nature and the measures the Nature Foundation has been taking to address challenges facing the natural areas of Sint Maarten.

“We were very honored to be able to present the challenges we have been facing and our activities to address those challenges to both Their Majesties. We especially gave an explanation as to the fact that our environment, that which makes us unique as a destination and as a country and that which contributes significantly to our economy, has suffered significantly due to both hurricanes. We explained the impacts on our wetlands, coral reefs and seagrass beds and gave an update on the activities we have been undertaking to clean and restore these critical ecosystems. We also explained that, unfortunately, due to Climate Change the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom will continue to experience more numerous and more intense storms and that we as Caribbean People are at the forefront of the climate issue,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Manager of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation.

The presentation to the Royals was given in a mangrove area in the Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten’s most important wetland and one which was extensively damaged due to Hurricane Irma, “We made sure to highlight the important link between the environment and the economy and the need to rebuild more resilient and more sustainable. Both the King and the Queen were very open and very curious to know what steps will be taken to make Sint Maarten into a more sustainable, conservation oriented and climate resilient island after the devastation caused by both Irma and Maria, “concluded Bervoets.

King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands with Tadzio Bervoets
Bervoets explaining King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands about the environmental impacts post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Nature Foundation Cleans and Restores Mullet Pond; Sint Maarten’s Most Important Wetland

One of Sint Maarten’s most important wetlands, Mullet Pond, was cleaned and restored by the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation as a part of the organization’s environmental response post hurricanes Irma and Maria. Mullet Pond is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty. The Ramsar Convention, signed in Iran in 1971, is a global commitment to maintain the ecological character of global wetland areas, including in the wider Caribbean region.

“Using the disaster relief funds provided to us by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance we were able to use volunteers to clean one of the most important and one of the only protected wetland areas we have on the island. Mullet Pond is a critical ecosystem for us on the island as it contains the last intact mangrove forest within the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Unfortunately the area was also illegally used in the storms as a protected anchorage area and numerous boats sank, in particular the Mullet Pond Inlet. We used divers and volunteers from the community to clean the area both under and above water and removed six dump truckloads of debris,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

Given the importance of the area the Nature Foundation paused its beach clean-up activities in order to focus on Mullet Pond; “Although it is important to focus on the beach cleanups we are also responsible for other natural areas. Because of its unique characteristics and international status we made the clean-up and restoration of Mullet Pond one of our priorities moving forward. We have also discussed with the authorities ways in which we can place moorings outside of critical nature habitat in the area so that vessel owners can still protect their vessels while at the same time protecting sensitive natural areas. In particular a houseboat illegally sought shelter in the area significant damage occurred and we need to prevent this in the future. Although we cleaned and restored the area significantly, we still have our work cut out for us in bringing the area close to the level it was before,” concluded Bervoets.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Estimates Months to Clean Mullet Pond Protected Area; to Present Post-Hurricane Irma Activities to Parliament on Friday

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has estimated that it may take several months to completely clean and restore the Mullet Pond Protected Area Ramsar Site after it inspected the area with representatives from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean on Wednesday. The Foundation’s Manager Tadzio Bervoets will also present the Nature Foundation’s activities during an urgent Central Committee meeting of Parliament on Friday.

“We have been requested to give a presentation to Parliament this coming Friday October 27th at 16:00 about our activities post-hurricane Irma, particularly as it relates to cleaning up the Simpson Bay Lagoon and surrounding waters. Unfortunately one of the most important areas of the Simpson Bay Lagoon, Mullet Pond, has been significantly impacted by the storm, both in terms of damage to mangroves and in terms of debris caused by the sinking of numerous vessels and objects in the area. We estimate that it may take months to fully clean the area,” commented Bervoets.

One of Sint Maarten’s most important wetlands, Mullet Pond, has been listed and protected as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty in September 2016, marking a significant advancement in the conservation of wetland biodiversity on the island. The Ramsar Convention, signed in Iran in 1971, is a global commitment to maintain the ecological character of global wetland areas, including in the wider Caribbean region.

“We will be presenting these and other challenges to Parliament as it relates to how Irma impacted the Nature and Environment of Sint Maarten and our ideas on how to mitigate those and future impacts moving forward,” concluded Bervoets.

A sunken Houseboat in the Mullet Pond Ramsar Site

Follow-up Assessments of Environmental Damage Post Hurricane Irma; Simpson Bay Lagoon can be Considered Environmental Disaster

On the 6th of September powerful category five storm Hurricane Irma struck Sint Maarten with 185 MPH winds, causing widespread damage to the island and its infrastructure.

The storm also caused significant damage to the island’s nature and environment prompting the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation to conduct rapid qualitative assessments to determine the level of impact. The first Terrestrial and Marine Assessments were carried out from the 12th to the 16th of the second assessment was conducted from the 22nd to the 25th of September and will continue for some time.

Terrestrial Impacts:

Solid Waste

It is also expected that solid waste disposal due to infrastructure challenges and cleanup will have significant impact on the community. The Philipsburg landfill was already over capacity before the storm and collected storm debris will contribute to the challenges regarding solid waste significantly.

The Nature Foundation is concerned regarding the management of the significant amount of solid waste and the disposal as such. The Nature Foundation is also concerned about pests, including rodents and insects (flies and mosquitos primarily) impacting the community.

Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the island’s flora. The majority of large trees, some with historical and cultural significance, have been toppled. Most foliage on the island has been burnt by wind and salt spray. Most hills, valleys and other green areas were completely defoliated leaving the island brown and leafless.

However due to rains brought by Hurricane Maria and subsequent rainfall on the 24th and 25th of September there is progress with regards to the recovery of flora, with some areas having significant greenery return.

Avifauna (birds) have also been hard hit by Irma’s significant winds. Although some species are showing signs of recovery, other species have been particularly hard hit. Rookery sites being monitored by the Nature Foundation of the Brown Pelican, Sint Maarten’s National Bird, have been decimated and recovery will take some time. Since the passing of the Hurricane Irma some breeding pairs were observed in the Little Bay area but the pelican population has suffered significantly.

Because of a shortage of available food the Nature Foundation is requesting the population to place bird feeders in their gardens. A glass or bottle with a simple mix of sugar and water will suffice.

Marine Impacts

The following impacts regarding the Marine and Wetland Ecosystems were recorded:

The Simpson Bay Lagoon can be considered an environmental disaster, with thousands of gallons of vessel fuel still being leaked into the environment.

Mullet Pond Ramsar Site

An estimated 90% of mature mangroves have been destroyed. The area of Mullet Pond, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, has suffered particularly significant damage. Mangroves strands were also uprooted because sailboats tied unto mangrove roots illegally causing significant damage. Most of these vessels have now sunk.

Since the last assessments most vessels have cleared out of the Mullet Pond area and the Nature Foundation has started with the clean-up of the site. A number of vessels will have to be salvaged in the area and will take significant effort to complete.

Other Wetlands

Significant debris is still being recorded in all wetlands and coastal areas from various sources, from the previously estimated 120 sunken vessels of differing size in the last assessment that number has risen to above 200. Vessel sizes range from 100 meters to five meters. Because of the large amount of sunken vessels very large quantities of fuel have been spilled in especially the Simpson Bay Lagoon and Oyster Pond wetlands. Estimated fuel spilled in the Simpson Bay Lagoon exceeds 200,000 gallons and is still being leaked. The Nature Foundation has contacted the authorities regarding this but to date little assistance has been provided. The Nature Foundation is concerned that the lasting impacts of the fuel spill will have on the environment and public health of Sint Maarten.

There has been very little support for clean-up activities from an environmental perspective. In order for successful mangrove restoration activities to commence the water-quality issue in the Simpson Bay Lagoon has to be addressed.

The water quality of all wetlands and beaches is still questionable given the fuel-leakage issues and run-off from land. The Nature Foundation will continue to assess water-quality in order to determine the increase of afore-mentioned.

During previous assessments in Simpson Bay and in the Simpson Bay Lagoon large areas of seagrass beds have been uprooted and decimated. During subsequent surveys it was estimated that the island has lost, thus far, two hectares of native seagrass beds.

Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area (National Marine Park)

The Marine Park has suffered significant damage. Although in-depth assessments have not yet been made, rapid qualitative assessments have established that there has been significant storm damage to the Marine Park. An estimated 50% of coral colonies observed have suffered extensive damage and there is significant siltation still in the Marine Park. The Marine Park has only been in existence for six years and the resiliency of the area to recover from this significant weather event remains to be seen.

Coral reefs contribute more than USD 50 million annually in ecosystem goods and services to the economy of Sint Maarten. Due to the impacts of hurricane Irma Sint Maarten will see a significant reduction in the goods and services provided by the ecosystem.

The Nature Foundation Coral Nursery Project structures, acoustic hydrophone transmitter arrays, conch and seagrass experiments and scuba dive moorings are still non-existent due to the passage of the storm. In the coming weeks the Nature Foundation will move towards re-installing critical dive moorings at locations where research projects were being conducted.

Beaches

Beaches have experienced significant erosion due to the storm surge brought on by Hurricane Irma and there has been a significant impact on Sea Turtle nesting habitat. The 2017 Sea Turtle Nesting Season Monitoring Program has been cancelled. Most beaches are still significantly covered by debris both on land and submerged. The Nature Foundation will continue to dive beaches in order to determine and submerged hazardous obstacles. 

Advisories

The Nature Foundation would like to issue various advisories to the public:

  • Still do not eat fish, alive or dead, from surrounding waters. Due to run-off seafood may be contaminated and not safe to eat.
  • Be careful when using beaches. The Nature Foundation has not had the opportunity yet to survey all beaches for debris and there may be sharp, dangerous objects in the water that can cause injury.
  • Please follow instructions from Government to not burn garbage. Burning garbage is illegal and can release toxic chemicals in the air.

   .

Assessments of Environmental Damage Carried out Post Hurricane Irma by the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation

On the 6th of September powerful category five storm Hurricane Irma struck Sint Maarten with 185 MPH winds, causing widespread damage to the island and its infrastructure.

The storm also caused significant damage to the island’s nature and environment prompting the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation to conduct rapid qualitative assessments to determine the level of impact. Terrestrial and Marine Assessments were carried out from the 12th to the 16th of September and will continue after the passing of Hurricane Maria.

Terrestrial Impacts:

Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the island’s flora. The majority of large trees, some with historical and cultural significance, have been toppled. Most foliage on the island has been burnt by wind and salt spray. Most hills, valleys and other green areas have been completely defoliated leaving the island brown and leafless.

Avifauna (birds) have also been hard hit by Irma’s significant winds. Although some species are showing signs of recovery, other species have been particularly hard hit. Rookery sites being monitored by the Nature Foundation of the Brown Pelican, Sint Maarten’s National Bird, have been decimated and recovery will take some time.

Marine Impacts

The following impacts regarding the Marine and Wetland Ecosystems were recorded: An estimated 90% of mature mangroves have been destroyed. The area of Mullet Pond, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, has suffered particularly significant damage. Mangroves strands were also uprooted because sailboats tied unto mangrove roots illegally causing significant damage. Most of these vessels have now sunk.

Significant debris was recorded in all wetlands and coastal areas from various sources, including an estimated 120 sunken vessels of differing size. Because of the large amount of sunken vessels large quantities of fuel have been spilled in especially the Simpson Bay Lagoon and Oyster Pond wetlands. Estimated fuel spilled in the Simpson Bay Lagoon exceeds 100,000 gallons.

There has been significant run-off from land as a result of Irma’s torrential rains, drastically reducing water quality at all beaches. Several areas have raw sewage entering directly into the sea and into wetlands. There has also been a significant fish-die off in the Great Salt and Fresh Ponds due to a reduction in water quality.

During assessments in Simpson Bay and in the Simpson Bay Lagoon large areas of seagrass beds have been uprooted and decimated.

Although coral reef assessments have not yet been carried out, damage is expected to be extensive and significant.

The Nature Foundation Coral Nursery Project structures, acoustic hydrophone transmitter arrays, conch and seagrass experiments and scuba dive moorings are non-existent due to the passage of the storm.

Beaches have experienced significant erosion due to the storm surge brought on by Hurricane Irma

It is also expected that solid waste disposal due to infrastructure challenges and cleanup will have significant impact on the community. The Philipsburg landfill was already over capacity before the storm and collected storm debris will contribute to the challenges regarding solid waste significantly.

Advisories

The Nature Foundation would like to issue various advisories to the public:

  • Do not eat fish, alive or dead, from surrounding waters. Due to run-off seafood may be contaminated and not safe to eat.
  • Be careful when using beaches. The Nature Foundation has not had the opportunity yet to survey all beaches for debris and there may be sharp, dangerous objects in the water that can cause injury.
  • Please follow instructions from Government to not burn garbage. Burning diapers is illegal and can release toxic chemicals in the air.

Status of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation

The Nature Foundation has escaped large-scale damage. The Nature Foundation Office, Marine Park Patrol Vessel and Warehouse received minimal damage and all personnel survived the storm without injury.

Students doing their internship at the Nature Foundation were evacuated immediately after Irma and key personnel are now assisting with water and food distribution and clean-up within the community.

The Nature Foundation would like to emphasize that extreme weather conditions and their frequency may be directly related to Climate Change. However, the Nature of our Island, just like her people, are resilient and will recover in due time.

The Nature Foundation highly appreciates any donations in order to protect and restore St. Maarten’s Nature!

http://naturefoundationsxm.org/donate/

 

Mangroves

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Mangroves are species of plants and shrubs that live on the land or shallow water or both – being flooded by seawater for part of each day. They have adapted to their salty environment by being able to turn salt water into fresh water and pushing out the salt through the pores in their leaves. They are typically found along inland waterways and sheltered coasts.

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Around St. Maarten, four species of mangroves can be found:

Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), which typically grows along the water’s edge, is found at Mullet Pond, Simpson Bay Lagoon and some areas around Fresh Pond. It has tangled, reddish roots called ‘prop roots’ that are usually exposed at low tide but covered at high tide. Its leaves are large and egg-shaped, dark green on the top and light green on the bottom. The fruit it produces looks like a pencil.

Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) grows in muddy or sandy soils further inland than the Red Mangrove. Its wood is dark brown to nearly black, and its leaves are narrow and egg-shaped with pointy ends. It has many finger-like projections, called pneumatophores, which protrude from the soil around the trunk. These help bring extra oxygen to the tree.

White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) grows on land farther upland than the Red Mangrove and Black Mangrove. Its thick leaves are light yellow green and have two distinguishing glands at the base of the leaf blade where the stem starts. The fruit it produces is small, dry, leathery and ribbed like a prune.

Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) grows high on land away from the reach of the tide. Its greenish flowers have a button-like appearance and grow in branched clusters, forming cone-like fruit. The leaves are long and pointed and have two salt-excreting glands located at the base.

Mangroves are one of the most valuable natural resources on the planet. They support extensive coastal food webs, provide shoreline stability and protect coastlines from erosion by storm waves. They also help keep the water clean; their roots filter and prevent the sediment from reaching and smothering coral reefs. Though mangrove ecosystems provide a unique and valuable range of resources and services, huge areas of mangrove continue to be lost to agriculture and urbanization. It is estimated that about 60% of the total mangrove areas in the world have disappeared. The healthy areas of mangrove forest that remain on St. Maarten are therefore significant worldwide and must be urgently protected from further damage.

Mangrove wetlands provide a vital habitat for many animal species, from fish to conch to birds. Marine invertebrates found in St. Maarten’s mangroves include the endangered Queen Conch (Strombus gigas), Upside Down Jellyfish (Cassiopeia frondosa), Sea Cucumber (Holothuria mexicana) and Sea Urchins (Tripneustes venricosus, Lytechinus variegates, Meoma ventricosa). Fish species include wrasses, parrotfish, silversides, herrings and anchovies. One key function of mangroves is their role as a nursery for reef fish, including Schoolmasters (Lutjanus apodus), Gray Snapper (Lutjanus griseus), Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) and the Foureye Butterfly (Chaetodon capistratus).

Mangrove areas provide a perfect habitat for roosting, nesting and migrating wetland birds. Several species of birds breed in and around the mangroves of St. Maarten, including the American Coot (Felucia Americana), Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea), Green Heron (Butorides striatus), Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliates) and several plovers.

Of the 19 mangrove ponds on St. Maarten, only four remain today: Red Pond, Fresh Pond, Little Bay Pond and Mullet Pond. Development pressures and pollution threaten these remaining mangroves areas. The start of the construction of the Simpson Bay Lagoon Causeway in 2012 has meant the clearing of much of the lagoon’s mangrove forest. To compensate for this loss, the St. Maarten Nature Foundation has replanted thousands of juvenile mangroves in the lagoon as well as at other locations on St. Maarten.

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