IICA-CBF EbA Project supports sandbar stabilization vetiver trials at Low Bay 

whatsapp image 2023 06 29 at 9.59.22 am
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A first in Barbuda – using vetiver grass to stabilize s section of the sandbar in Low Bay, which encloses the Codrington lagoon.

This trial is applying nature-based solutions for soil erosion control, supported by the project to strengthen coastal and marine climate resilience through upland and coastal ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) and community engagement, implemented by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). 

The IICA and Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) project implemented in Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia and Tobago is funded by the CBF EbA Facility, supported by the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety and the International Climate Initiative (IKI).

The western boundary of the Barbuda Lagoon which is part of the Codrington Lagoon National Park (CLNP) is comprised of a sandbar that creates Barbuda’s famous 11-mile pink sand beach. 

The steady process of coastal erosion is increasingly shifting this strategic sandbar inland, with the persistent and widening breach of the sandbar. This is a visible and direct climate change impact, i.e., sea level rise, as well as poor land management evidenced by several ill-advised and unapproved developments.

Together, these climate hazards and non-climate stressors have negatively altered the coastal dynamics and the sand budget of the island. This situation has caused continued changes in the water chemistry, physical conditions and habitat quality of the Lagoon. Many of its ecosystems have been negatively impacted and disrupted. 

Mr. John Mussington, Chairman of the Barbuda Council Agriculture and Fisheries Division highlighted that this increases the exposure, vulnerability and risk to the lives and livelihoods of all Barbudans. Without urgent and strategic interventions, this situation will further compromise the ability to utilize adaptation strategies to cope with the consequences of the climate crisis.

The intervention of the IICA-CBF EbA project, through the trial of this nature-based or green engineering solution, is seen as timely and could be pivotal to the wider sandbar stabilization effort. 

Vetiver grass for soil erosion control is being trialled on a section of the sandbar that is most actively eroding and migrating at an accelerated rate.  

The IICA-CBF EbA project supplied three hundred (300) vetiver grass slips, propagated in the GARDC Garden of Vetiver Grass Nursery, established in the early stages of the EbA project.

The vetiver plantlets were shipped to Barbuda between the month of May-June and, prior to the start of the trail, were allowed to acclimatize to the Barbuda environmental conditions which are different from Antigua.

The grass will be planted over several weeks utilizing various agronomical practices, building on lessons learned in using the vetiver green engineering system at the Cooks Landfill in Antigua and from the exchange of experiences from a recent field visit to EbA project sites in Dominica.

An important lesson is complementing the vetiver with existing original vegetation, such as mangrove plants through a re-vegetation exercise reinforced with good coastal management practices.

The immediate goal is to demonstrate how re-vegetation can be used as a tool to positively ease further negative impacts of coastal erosion and to transfer good practices and skills to stakeholders who can be empowered to act in their own best interest.

The sustainable solution to the break in the sand bar will require more continuous detailed and technical interventions, including coral reef restoration and the creation of additional reefs, seagrass and mangrove-type systems and potentially, the use of alternative energy systems linked to the Bio rock Reef restoration technology.

Much of this will be pioneer work to pilot and perfect applications that may be suitable for deployment in other situations where ecosystem restoration is required.

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