The mangrove stands at the mouth, the inner north peninsula and the western end of Puerto Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay received the brunt of the storm surge during Hurricane Maria causing almost total mortality of the mangroves in these areas which give the mouth of the bay its characteristic meandering shape, which in turn, protects the Pyrodinium bahamense bloom from washing out into the sea.
Drs Elvira Cuevas and Ernesto Medina, the scientists who conducted the post-storm assessment of the mangrove forest in Puerto Mosquito and its potential for recovery recommended reforestation to begin as soon as possible in the areas of total mangrove mortality, since it could take between 15 – 30 years for the areas to recuperate naturally. This need gave birth to this project: a specialized solar mangrove nursery to be located at the Escuela Barbosa, and the reforestation of the Puerto Mosquito forest with plants grown in this facility.
Four species of mangrove will be grown, Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove), Avicennia germinans (black mangrove), Laguncularia racemosa (white mangrove) and Conocarpus erectus (button mangrove). Rhizophora will be cultivated using an innovative protocol designed by VCHT biologist, Viequense Erick Bermúdez Carambot: under inundation, salinity and nutrient conditions that emulate those found in the Bioluminescent Bay. The nursery will be powered by photovoltaic energy and will serve a demonstration, training, and educational resource for other VCHT programs such as MANTA and The Wizards of Nature.
This project is being developed with funding from ConPRmetidos, Hispanic Federation, 11th Hour Racing, The Ocean Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and our members and friends, in particular Lulu Atkin. Technical assistance is being provided by Manuel Merello. The Manager of the DNER Vieques Bioluminescent Bay Nature Reserve, biologist Edgardo Belardo; the manager of the USFWS Vieques Wildlife Refuge, biologist Mike Barandiaran; the Agricultural Agent in Vieques of the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Agronomist Hilda Bonilla; scientists Elvira Cuevas PhD and Ernesto Medina PhD from the Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation (CATEC) of the University of Puerto Rico have contributed their valuable knowledge and support.
Field work is carried out by Mike Martin Bras, biologist Erick Bermúdez Carambot and Neisha Ramos Benjamín and Michael Urayoan Connellly Reyes. The project is managed by Lirio Márquez D’Acunti.