New figures indicate that the mangrove population in both islands avoids worst fears
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Recently released research has confirmed that the islands most heavily afflicted by Hurricane Dorian are also where mangrove populations experienced the greatest declines.
Acknowledging that new data has provided needed context to the extent of the issue, local and regional experts are weighing in on what policymakers need to know to “jumpstart” mangrove recovery in Abaco and Grand Bahama.
According to Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT), a Florida-based organization, its initial surveys suggested 73 percent (representing 21,000 acres) of mangrove forests in Grand Bahama and 40 percent (or 20,000 acres) in Abaco were damaged or destroyed.
However, according to Executive Director of Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) Dr Craig Dahlgren, the total is significantly less than the initial estimates projected.
“In Grand Bahama, 5,233 acres and that is a total of 20 percent of all of Grand Bahama’s mangroves is totally dead from Dorian. Close to 30 percent or 7,776 acres of Grand Bahama’s mangroves were damaged,” the PIMS executive director reported.
“In the case of Abaco, which has a lot more mangroves, 4,753 acres or 7.6 percent of Abaco’s mangroves were damaged while 8,578 acres which is 13.7 percent of Abaco’s total mangroves were dead.”
According to the newly released findings, Abaco sustained damage to 21.3 percent of its mangrove population, 18.7 percent less than the 40 percent first floated.
As multiple agencies attempt to secure funding for mangrove restoration projects, Dahlgren said that “no one organization can do it all.” He also noted that the time required for full restoration would make further delays imprudent.
“With concerted, sustained efforts over the next couple of years we can jumpstart that recovery process enough so that nature can then take its course, but it’s going to take a decade or more for those mangroves to fully recover, based on how fast the new ones start to grow and how long it takes for them to reach maturity,” said Dahlgren.
The BTT has set a goal of planting 100,000 mangroves in five years. Currently, the group says it has planted over 20,000.
PIMS and its partners say they have thus far planted 12,500 mangroves off Grand Bahama.