Restoring the vegetation cover and the native forests of biodiversity hotspots in Mauritius

Kolos Mauritius
Published: 14 September 2018
Last edited: 08 November 2018
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Summary

Since 2010, 2.5 ha of Citadel and 18 ha of Petrin were restored with endemic trees. This reforestation project is aiming at conserving the unique biodiversity of Mauritius, allowing complete re-vegetation of the 11 ha of Citadel, reintroducing endemic ecosystem at Petrin which are invaded by exotic alien plants and preserving the ecosystem for the public to appreciate nature. Due to the fire prone grassland of Citadel, there are regular fires which sweep much of the area every year.Fire breaks are created by adding a barrier made of rocks around each plant and  regular removal of grass. Herbicides are used in controlling the alien plants at Petrin which are highly dense. Adapted Native species, prevailing to the environmental conditions of the site, were selected to reduce mortality risk. After a ground cover is established and some of the pioneer species start growing, species that need more humidity and shade will be planted.Endangered ecosystem will regenerate through seed dispersal.

Classifications

Region
East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
National
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Theme
Adaptation
Fire management
Forest Management
Invasive alien species
Restoration
Sustainable financing
World Heritage
Hazards addressed
Land and forest degradation
Wildfire
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 9: Invasive alien species prevented and controlled
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Sendai Framework
Target 4: Reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030
Target 6: Enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of this Framework by 2030

Location

Endemic Forest Area Petrin ,Black River Gorges National Park,Mauritius | Citadel in Port Louis,Mauritius - 1: 20 09'53.03" S 57 30'41.84" E 2: 20 09'52.38" S 57 34'43.04" E 3: 20 03'47.33" S 57 30'35.71" E 4: 20 09'46.63" S 57 30'36.66" E
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Challenges

 - Lack of specialized resources and labour for a proper and continuous maintenance of the preserved areas.

-The historical monument, alongside the restored area of Citadel, attracts many tourists and the public in general but the conserved area is not secured in case of thefts, frequent fire attacks by youngsters and damages.

- Presence of invasive plants: there is a need to increase awareness for the conservation of native biodiversity and deleterious effects of invasive alien species through sensitization campaigns.

- Regular occurrence of fire outbreaks - the fire prone open savannah-like community of alien plants to be replaced with a non-fire prone shady native grass or woodland, hence reducing soil erosion and desertification as well.

-There is a need for a reservoir to enable regular watering of the plants.

-There has been deforestation due to economic development needs (Sugarcane Economy and Property Development), leading to only 2% of endemic/native forest remaining on the island.

Beneficiaries

People from the capital city will be able to connect with nature through the restored green area of Citadel. Creation of green jobs (Maintenance and weeding). The tourists will learn about both the historical fort and its native biodiversity.

How do the building blocks interact?

For the continuity of the project, we need sustainable funding sources. 

Several events are organised such as tree planting ceremonies and clean ups which involve the mentioned NGOs and  stakeholders in the building block. These activities support the revival of the Citadel's ecosystem and aim at providing a public green metropolitan area in the heart of the capital city to connect people with nature and foster a healthy living.

Each NGO has different stakeholders helping them. For example : FORENA and FOE share the same problem and success,having as aim to regenerate the total 11 ha of the mountain ecosystem of Citadel.

There is a need to create a holistic approach to this reforestation project by involving as much as possible the stakeholders and collaborating with the mentioned NGOs.

The stakeholders need to know how their money is being spent for the reforestation of Citadel and Petrin.

In a way they are contributing to the conservation of Citadel and Petrin indirectly. Protecting nature should not only reflect the work of non-governmental organisations but also that of stakeholders involved which in a way, would not have been possible without them.

 

Impacts

The planned fully restored native vegetation cover of Citadel :

1) Provides a pleasant, stress-free environment to recharge from the bustling city life, along with a healthy and pedagogical activity.

2) Constitutes one of the rare instances of re-afforestation on mainland Mauritius that will serve as a concrete example of our contribution towards reducing the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by fixing part of it into plants.

3) Helps the conservation of the Mauritian native wildlife by re-constituting populations of native and endemic species which once existed at Citadel but was destroyed by humans. It is worthwhile to note here that of all the countries in the world, Mauritius has one of the most damaged native biodiversity with many of its unique species threatened with extinction.

 4) Reduces soil erosion and desertification as well as the direct risks exposed to people and property by sporadic fires that sweep through the areas every year, by replacing a fire prone open savannah-like community of alien plants with a non-fire prone shady native grass or woodland.

5) Increases awareness for the need of conservation of native biodiversity and deleterious effects of invasive alien species through environmental education at schools.

6) Facilitates Eco-tourism with visits of this restored green area alongside the Citadel, a historical monument.

Story

Forena

We can't deny that the undesirable impacts of deforestation and global warming are more than ever being felt and already changing the world in terms of human lives and losses to property and agricultural productions. This trend is set to accelerate as more primary growth forests continue to be destroyed and millions of tons of carbon dioxide poured daily into the atmosphere by human activities. At the same time, biodiversity worldwide is declining at an alarming rate, with the planet entering the sixth mass extinction, and is caused by only one species – us.

The native vegetation that once existed on Citadel was destroyed by humans a few centuries ago. The biodiversity at Citadel today overwhelming consists of alien species, including some planted one, doubtless as a result of early deforestation and regular fires sweeping through much of the area every year. 

Although its original vegetation was never described, an idea of what it could have been like could be obtained through a comparison with other sites on Mauritius having similar conditions. These include mainly climate (rainfall and temperature) and soil, and to lesser extent the aspect and sloppiness, and distance from coast. It is most likely that the original vegetation of Citadel was a dry forest of relatively stunted trees of about 4 to 6 m tall, with rare emergents, growing at low densities and rich in palms, screw pines and some hardwood trees and shrubs. Plantings are being made in such a way that it looks as far as possible like that in a natural environment, avoiding planting in straight rows for example. 
Since 2010, Forena, mainly in collaboration with partners Friends of the Environment, GEF Small Grants Programme, UNDP and Tourism Authority, has achieved the restoration of close to 3 ha of Citadel. Our aim is the full-scale restoration of the Citadel that is 11ha by re-instating a native plant cover suitable native plants respecting the national historical heritage. This will not only contribute to the creation of a sustainable forest and carbon sink in the context of the alarming climate change but it will also enhance the touristic area of Port Louis and help build awareness about our unique biodiversity, notoriously one of the most threatened in the world. 
 

Contributed by

Oormila Sahodree Fondation Ressources et Nature (FORENA)