Nature Foundation alarmed about mangrove destruction

POSTED: 06/3/14 12:12 AM

“Plans do not fit in with sustainable development”

The St. Maarten Nature Foundation has expressed in an official letter its concern about the possible construction of marinas and possible other developments in one of the last remaining mangrove areas in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Areas that were previously zoned as green areas in the draft zoning plan are now labeled as places where development is slated to take place.

“Of particular concern is that these are areas where the Nature Foundation recently conducted a mangrove reforestation program. Some eight thousand juvenile mangroves were planted, a significant and costly undertaking for a conservation management organization and one that has gained wide scale recognition throughout the region,” the Nature Foundation stated in a press release.

The Foundation is following the developments “with significant concern” because they touch some of the last remaining relatively healthy mangrove strands in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The area from the Cole Bay side of the Simpson Bay Causeway to Port de Plaisance Marina are some of the last relatively healthy areas of not only mangrove strands but also of seagrass beds that support habitat for conch, lobster, and numerous fish species.

Based on a 2012 Nature Foundation Report the area is responsible for the maintaining of acceptable water quality levels in other areas of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The study also shows that if that section would be developed the entire eastern section of the Simpson Bay Lagoon from the Causeway to Cole Bay would experience significant environmental collapse with no living, viable ecosystems in place to support life. A significant drop in water quality will also be experienced, turning that section into what is scientifically termed a “dead zone.”

The mangrove sections will also play an important role in the combat against the rise of seawater levels, a recent Nature Foundation report on the effects of climate change indicates. “If those areas are removed the effects of climate change, including the flooding of some Cole Bay areas, will become a reality. Mangroves have an important coastal protection function, and they are essential in protecting communities from the effects of climate change,” the release states.

“Many conservation organizations and residents have expressed hope that the section in question will be preserved in its current state considering that it forms the ecological backbone of the Simpson Bay Lagoon, together with areas like Little Key and Mullet Pond. There is no question that the development of the area and the associated destruction of important natural habitat will have dire consequences for the Simpson Bay Lagoon and St. Maarten in general,” the foundation warns in its press statement. “The conclusions outlined in this letter are based on and supported by scientific studies that further highlight the potential negative effects.”

The Nature Foundation urges in its press release all stakeholders to conclude that developing the area will cause ecological collapse in one or more sections of the Simpson Bay Lagoon and that this does not fit within sustainable development.

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