Mangrove Restoration Bonaire

Mangrove Maniacs
Published: 31 May 2023
Last edited: 31 May 2023
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The Bonaire Mangrove Restoration focuses on the mangroves in Lac that are threatened by silting up through excessive erosion. Analysis of satellite imagery shows this impact, and studies in the catchment area indicate locations for potential interventions. Through this project, the affected area has been mapped, ownership has been determined and initial interventions - reforestation - have taken place. Reduced water circulation in the forest further decreases the health of the mangroves. By opening up closed channels the water circulation has been improved, also improving the conditions for the mangroves. Indicators for this are salinity, natural colonization of areas by propagules and an in-depth hydrological study. As a final element, a nursery has been set up in the forest where the natural tidal flow makes watering unnecessary. In the nursery, propagules of mangroves have been raised. Planting of nursery-grown saplings functioned both as reforestation, but also as outreach for the whole community. 



Scale of implementation
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Coastal and marine spatial management
Ecosystem services
Erosion prevention
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Outreach & communications
Science and research
Traditional knowledge
Sea level rise
Storm surges
Ecosystem loss
Sustainable development goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans


Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands
Sorobon Bonaire


Effects of climate change are sea level rise and more extreme weather. Mangroves are considered the first line of coastal defence.


However, mangroves are threatened by erosion, reduced water circulation, sargassum influxes and climate change effects. The watershed bordering Lac Bay is overgrazed by donkeys and goats. This leaves the area prone to erosion - sediments reach the backwaters and cause silting up and hypersalinity, and this caused a massive die back - in the period 2014 - 2020 over 8% of the area died back.


Healthy mangroves need good water circulation; the water circulation is facilitated by the tidal flow but hampered by increased sedimentation, a reduced tidal prism and the blocking of the waterways by the growth of mangrove roots.


Since 2018 Lac Bay has experienced increased sargassum influxes. Sargassum enters the bay and upon reaching the coast dies and decomposes, thus resulting in an additional 1% loss of mangroves in the period 2018 - 2020.





Residents of Bonaire. Organizations involved in restoration or managing adjacent areas like STINAPA, a non-governmental, not for profit commissioned by the island government to manage the two protected areas of Bonaire.


How do the building blocks interact?

Even though the different interventions (building blocks) can be executed independently, they form a coherent approach to make the success of the project complete. There is also overlap and a lot of interrelation between them. A forest stays healthy when the water circulation is optimal and propagules will be available for the nurseries. The seedlings from the nurseries are needed to improve the degraded areas, for reforestation. A lot of activities to increase community awareness involve people participating in one of the activities where they will have onhand experience and will better understand the mangrove habitat, and for whom the importance of mangroves can be explained. 


In the course of the project, we managed to:

  • Opening of 400 m new channels.
  • Maintenance of the whole network of over 3500 m, which improves a surface area of over 1600 sqm - ultimately connecting an area of 105.600 sqm.
  • Establishment of 5 nurseries in the network of opened channels and raised 5600 propagules, mostly red mangroves but also black mangroves.
  • Study of the white mangroves to assess their importance.
  • Delivery of a pilot on white mangrove propagation. Most of these propagules grew out into healthy saplings and have been outplanted in 5 events. Afterwards, the outplants have been monitored by interns. These outplanting events have been done with the residents of Bonaire, all ages or groups like the high school and junior Rangers. 
  • Active community engagement, including volunteers, through outreach and awareness on social media, articles in local and regional papers and numerous events (Kids Days, public presentations, World Wetlands Day, Day of the Mangroves, World Biodiversity Day). 



Mangrove Maniacs

Already a long time ago, the degradation of the mangrove forest of Lac Bay Bonaire was noted and possible causes for this were investigated. Trees were dying and annual fish die-off occurred in the backwaters. The restoration started as a small activity for clearing the closed-off channels with already modest effects. 


We started in 2015 with a small group of fishermen, a project coordinator, students and volunteers. Working together and seeing the positive results empowered the group and gave a sense of ownership to the project. The group joining grew, taking more and more responsibility for the job at hand. A bit more effort was dedicated to the mangrove forest over time until it now has grown into a full-fledged restoration effort where the results of the work are visible. 


More fish, healthy trees and flowing waters are some results everybody is proud of. The approach is based on infield learning and scientific input. Momentum is gained and more and more support is obtained.  The message comes across clearly: the mangroves are very important and we need to take care of them. Nationally and internationally the message is received, and people reach out to support and learn more about the project.

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Sabine Engel Stichting Internos