On Wednesday, February 2, a group of 50 Noumea residents harvested mangrove seeds in the second phase of a project to restore the Baie de Tina as a pristine, and essential, wetland area.
The seedlings, gathered from throughout Noumea were placed in a specially built nursery and replanted in the Baie, as small established plants at the end of the year.
The activity was part of World Wetland Day, celebrated on February 2, an initiative to protect and restore essential eco-systems which are diminishing at a rate three times faster than the world’s forests.
The problem has become so critical that the United Nations for the first time, has declared World Wetland Day a UN International Day to drive global attention to finding a solution.
Noumea has been identified as a bio-diversity hotspot, rich in plant and animal diversity because of its isolation, but increasingly under threat.
In Noumea, SOS Mangroves, a not-for-profit organisation run by committed climate protagonist Monik Lorfanfant, has secured support from Komatsu to help fund its Baie de Tina recovery program.
Employees of the company along with local residents gathered on 2nd February to harvest more than 2,000 mangrove seeds, for the replanting project.
Bae de Tina lost most of its wetland areas when land-based activities including a golf course and parkland developments encroached on the delicate ecosystem.
Komatsu runs a community assistance program called Live Your Dream in which its employees are encouraged to propose local projects for the company’s support.
Regional General Manager Jean Christophe Nyssens, born in Montreal but now a proud resident of New Caledonia along with his wife Sylvie-Eve and their two young sons, had already formed an association with SOS Mangroves, then upgraded it through Live Your Dream.
“Last year we were able to undertake a small program and help restore about 20 percent of the Baie’s mangroves,” Jean Christophe said.
“Now with Live Your Dream support we’re able to help fund SOS Mangroves and importantly provide critical human support to their effort to properly reclaim the area.”
According to Jean Christophe the project is as much focused on human endeavor as it is on the physical restoration of the site.
“There are people, some of them disadvantaged, living in the area who have embraced this as a special cause,” he said.
“We’ve been able to provide added support to them – for example, helping some young people to learn to drive and to seek employment opportunities.
“It’s provided a sense of purpose.”
World Wetlands Day organisers estimate more than 35 percent of the earth’s wetlands have disappeared in the last half century leaving only a vulnerable 1.6 billion hectares remaining.
More than half the loss has been attributed to human intervention through activities like agriculture, tourism, and urban development.
Regeneration of unique aquatic plants is essential to support the conservation of endangered species.
The Baie de Tina project is one of several run by SOS Mangroves to preserve nearly 230 hectares of mangroves in Noumea.
Some surviving mangrove trees are almost 300 years old, supporting around 50 bird species.
In line with world trends, Noumea is estimated to have lost more than 25 percent of its mangrove surface area in the last half century.
The loss is critical. Mangroves form a buffer zone between the land and the sea, protecting the coast from erosion, preventing sediment from smothering coral and acting as nursery for birds and marine organisms including crustaceans.