La Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin est une aire marine protégée de 30km2 située au nord-est de l’île de Saint-Martin. Créé en 1998, cet espace préserve les cinq principaux écosystèmes de l’île : récifs coralliens, mangroves, herbiers de phanérogames, étangs et forêt sèche littorale. La Réserve gère également les 14 étangs du Conservatoire du littoral et ses 11 km de rivages terrestres naturels.

Optimizing management means

Optimizing management means

Optimizing management means

Le projet original de l’ICBI – The original project of ICBI
Le projet original de l’ICBI – The original project of ICBI

It’s impossible to quantify the consequences of hurricane Irma in Saint Martin, but one of them impacts the creation of the Caribbean Institute For Insular Biodiversity (ICBI), a project led by the Réserve Naturelle since 2016. Located by the Etang de la Barrière in Cul-de-Sac, this project is currently the object of architectural and technical analysis, at the request of the Réserve. The marine flooding caused by storm swell exceeded the limits predicted in 2011 by the Prevention Plan For Natural Risks (PPRN), most notably in the bay of Cul-de-Sac where the waves inundated the first row of houses, with water over one meter high. So it is evident that the Réserve must make sure that the Institute will resist the wrath of the next hurricane. The analysis consists of evaluating the present situation, in order to provide a complete report on what should be built and to evaluate the feasibility of the operation. The effects of wind, flying debris, rain, and storm swell will be analyzed, as well as procedures to put in place before and after a hurricane. This will determine the architectural and technical modifications needed, and to how best protect all equipment by adapting the structure to withstand the extreme conditions imposed by Irma.

© Vincent Oliva
© Vincent Oliva

The call for proposals for the Conservatoire du Littoral’s much-anticipated development project around Galion beach will go out before the summer, comprising three phases. The first is for the demolition of recent walls, plus the cleanup and clearing of the site. The second is for excavation, roadwork, and various utilities, the goal being to return the area to its natural state as much as possible, and not build anything in concrete, except the road, which will be compacted and flattened. The third phase is for the installation of five picnic areas, a trash collection area, two ecological toilets, a wooden deck for a restaurant, and signage. A parking lot for up to 100 cars will be set back from the beach, as well as a parking area for busses. Borders with wooden posts and low fences will safely guide visitors to the beach. The closest approach to the beach will be limited to fishermen and the surfing club, who will have keys for access. Two beach volleyball nets are planned and children haven't been forgotten, as there will be a playground, which hasn't been announced yet, in order to surprise them. This project typical of others done by the Conservatoire, is ensured buu a cotnract funded 80% by the government and 20% by Conservatoire. There will also be a call for proposals for an itinerant restaurant, environmentally correct of course !

The Réserve Naturelle, which manages the Conservatore's land, will be responsable for planting vegetation in the Galion Zone. Coconut palms, gommiers, sea grapes, and mahogany are amonf the trees planned, all of which reach a height of at least 5'2" to 6'5".
Le comité consultatif - The advisory committee
Le comité consultatif - The advisory committee

The 2017 final report for the Réserve Naturelle, its 2017 budget, and the new management plan for 2018-2027 were presented at a meeting of the Réserve’s advisory committee held on June 5, 2018 at the prefecture. Those present included prefect Anne Laubies. Nicolas Maslach recapped the activities of the Réserve in 2017—which can be found on the website of the Réserve Naturelle in prior issues of the journal—and he also revealed projects for 2018, including repairing material impacted by Irma, the creation of a nursery for exclusively local trees, especially protected species (gaïacs and melocactus intortus/barrel cactus), as well as the continued battle against pests and certain invasive species (rats, goats, common iguanas) in the natural sites within the Réserve Naturelle. Amandine Vaslet presented a detailed version of the management plan 2018 - 2027, which was created after the evaluation of the first management plan (read article page 7). The advisory committee validated the Réserve Naturelle’s final report for 2017, its 2017 budget, and its new management plan.

Pinel, Petite Clé & Tintamare
Pinel, Petite Clé & Tintamare

The managers of protected marine areas in Saint Eustatius (STENAPA), Saba (Marine Park), Saint Barth (Territorial Environmental Agency), Sint Maarten (Nature Foundation) and Saint Martin (Réserve Naturelle) met in Saint Martin during the last week of May for a technical workshop organized by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRNN) and the CAR-SPAW, organizations which intervene regularly with their partners. The theme of this new training centered on the technical standards for the biophysical study of coral reefs, as well as the related socio-economic elements. The question was to know how to evaluate the health of a reef and its associated species, as well as how to study the various uses —social and cultural— and economic activities that rely on the existence of the reef. One concrete example concerns the small island of Pinel and its underwater pathway, which is followed closely by the Réserve. Questions: how do the inhabitants of the neighborhood closest to Cul-de-Sac perceive this site? What activities are associated with it? And what does it mean for the economic players that have a business on Pinel? Two teams then went out into the field. The first team went diving along the underwater pathway while the second team went to meet the residents of Cul-de-Sac, as well as concerned business people. The idea of the training was to help create an approach to identify conflicts or miscomprehensions, or suggest improvements to the management of the sites, with an eye to sustainable development and a harmonization of techniques. A deeper study will take place in coming years to put the best practices into effect, and adapt them to the management of the site.

Exploration en kayak - Exploring on board a kayak
Exploration en kayak - Exploring on board a kayak

The clean-up and repairs of damage caused by hurricane Irma on sites managed by the Conservatoire du Littoral led to the creation of a strategic plan, which breaks down into four major actions. Funding comes from three sources: 80% from the French Agency for Biodiversity, the French government as part of the post-hurricane cleanup (clean-up phase for the sites), and from the treasury of the Conservatoire.

Aerial Photos

The first operation was an aerial photo shoot to obtain images using a drone, especially above the salt ponds, in order to establish the impact on the mangroves, to verify the condition of water outlets, and identify debris in the most inaccessible areas. Comparison with aerial photos taken in June 2017 provided a clearer estimation of the impact of the hurricane on these wetlands.

An Ecological MissionMission écologique

The second mission required the cooperation of ecologist Mélanie Haerteman and Anne-Marie Bouillé, head of the Conservatoire in Saint Martin. In March, they examined the state of fauna and flora and took hydrological measurements — temperature, oxygenation, salinity, and currents— as well as mapped the extent of debris. They covered Etang des Salines d’Orient, Etang aux Poissons, Etang de la Barrière, Etang de Chevrise, Lucas Bay pond, Etang Guichard, and they visited ponds by the airport, the cemetery of Grand Case, and the Lowlands, as well as Pinel. An information sheet currently defines the priorities at each site, actions to avoid, and those to promote. The Etang de la Barrière, where the mangrove was the hardest hit, figures at the very top of the list.

Big Cleanup

Nettoyage du Galion - Cleaning up the GalionThe third action got underway on July 2, 2018 with a cleanup of the Galion site. It comprised the evacuation of hundreds of tons of trash, from Club Orient and the wooden shelters from Orient Bay to metal roofing, jets ski, containers, cars, and plastic bags… The local company that won the RFP (request of proposal) for the project sent out on May 15 has just two months to remove the largest items of debris from the totality of the sites of the Conservatoire. At the same time, with the help of the Foundation of France, the back-to-work association ACED has a deadline of six months to collect the smaller trash on the same sites, and started to do so on the same day at the Lucas Bay site in Oyster Pond. In addition, one hundred French scouts are committed to cleaning up around Galion on July 14-22. They took over from 20 scouts from Belgium, who had been working at the Etang de Chevrise on July 2-13. All of the debris will be treated by the Ecosite, which donated all of its services to ACED and the Réserve Naturelle, and offered preferential rates to the local company. And with an eye toward replanting the mangrove, the Réserve Naturelle is collecting seeds for this coastal vegetation and start a nursery.

Aude Berger, who holds a diploma in ocean sciences and techniques, and is earning a professional degree in environmental protection at UAG, has been hired by the Conservatoire du Littoral for the coordination of the cleanup at these sites, for a period of six months.

Application Of Recommendations

Once the sites are cleared all of debris, it will be time to repair or reconstruct the damaged structures and installations: bird observatories, open-air shelters, signage, and pathways... Please stay tuned for updates in our next edition.

 

La baie du Galion - Galion Bay
La baie du Galion - Galion Bay

On May 16, 2018, the Conservatoire du Littoral invited representatives from the French government and the Collectivité for an overview of the projects that will be run in conjunction with the Réserve Naturelle. The principal project comprises the renovation of the Galion site, for which a three-party agreement is being finalized between the Conservatoire, the Réserve Naturelle, and the Collectivité. The plan includes the creation of a parking lot, while on the beach openair shelters will be available for use by the public, as well as a snack bar. A playground for children is also on the drawing board, in addition to beach volleyball courts. The main goal is to conserve the natural aspect of the site and protect the local fauna and flora and their natural habitats.

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