Caye Caulker Forest Reserve is a small (~95 A) protected area located approximately 3.5 miles north of Caye Caulker Village. During a walk through the areas prior to enactment (1995) Government technicians along with biologist Ellen McRae discovered that many areas in the then-proposed Reserve were essentially relict cocals literally choked with coconut trees (Cocos nucifera) a non-native yet naturalised species. These actually overshadowed native plants, leaving only pockets of the original vegetation.Thus our restoration project originally was conceived as restoration of rare and highly-impacted littoral thicket and forest areas within CCFR.
However many decades later Hurricane Keith (Category 4, 30 Sep-2 Oct 2000) hit Caye Caulker, resulting in serious damage to the area’s mangroves, in addition to homes and other property. in 2007 when FAMRACC commenced its first PACT Foundation-funded grant, it included mangrove restoration in addition to that of littoral forest. Initially plantings of Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) propagules were placed along shore amidst snags of dead roots from hurricane-killed mangroves in two sites. However, these soon disappeared completely, suffering storm-generated loss. Subsequently (September 2008), we planted 50 propagules in MNG 2, located alongshore (See diagram). These were immediately and to the last one wiped out during TD 16 (15 October 2008).
Thus Ms. McRae went to the Internet—and came up with the Riley Encasement Methodology (REM), a technique showing some success in exposed areas. This simple method utilizes sections of 2-inch bore PVC pipe cut into 18’ sections, with a longitudinal slice down one side in order to permit expansion by the growing tree–with a single modification—reduction of basic tube length to 16” rather than 18”. Our first plantings numbered 30 in LF/MNG1 and 120 in MNG2, for a total of 150, planted in November 2008 using PVC pipes donated by Caye Caulker Village Council, planted alongshore, amidst storm-killed roots and in the shallow area between the shoreline and the fringe of naturally-regenerating mangroves offshore. Thus far our first trees have 44% survival as of January 2010 (14 months). Tree condition ranged from ungerminated propagules to seedlings with over 25 leaves and exceeding 55 cm in height. FAMRACC wishes to extend its particular gratitude to Caye Caulker Youth Environment Club, who assisted us, particularly through the littoral forest/thicket portions of the project.
We received a PACT Support grant to keep the littoral forest plants alive and watered from April-September 2009. At the end of this programme we performed a massive community planting of over 500 propagules and seedlings, sited similarly to the first wave. These had reduced survival in comparison to the original wave (42% following only 5 months). Potential reason for this is the variety of people engaged in the September planting, some of which were young and perhaps not as attentive when the correct planting method was described. Many of these have germinated and ranged as well from ungerminated propagules to rivaling the first wave in height; however maximum leaf count was 6-8 leaves.
Our most recent grant has permitted massive education programmes-seven to date, in addition to new plantings that are slated to commence now that the wet season has begun. 1,000 Red Mangrove propagules will be placed on site in addition to 300+ littoral forest plants will be placed in expansions of LF/ MNG1 and MNG2, as well as LF1, 2 and 3. Age of visitors ranged from Standard VI (11 yr + through high school to university students and professors from abroad. Tremendous inroads in trail maintenance and particularly rubbish pickup have taken place between mid-March-mid-May-some 75+ bags in addition to other large debris objects removed from CCFR beaches, trails and interior areas.
This is an ongoing long-term project, the first of its kind in Belize. This section of the programme will be complete on 14 Nov 2010.