Coastal wetlands in the US Virgin Islands have been impacted for decades by agriculture, land development, pollution and other human activities. Our coastlines were also severely damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Sedimentation, poor water quality, and damaged mangrove forests are just a few of the factors that result in poor quality habitat for coastal birds and other wildlife.
Historic landcover maps were used to identify over 118 individual wetlands across the US Virgin Islands--most of them are mangrove forests. We consulted with the St Croix Environmental Association, other bird experts, and wetland ecologists to identify a subset of these wetlands that were most significant for birds. We narrowed the list to 39 sites for initial investigation based on size, birding records, and accessibility.
In early 2022 we began evaluating these sites in the field in a variety of ways. The goals were to measure bird diversity and density, identify the source and level of damage to each mangrove forest, gauge the level of natural forest regeneration, and identify the sites that would benefit from a restoration plan.
Dr. Kristen Grimes at University of the Virgin Islands is also evaluating wetland plots.
Potential Restoration Sites
Biologists, engineers, and stormwater specialists evaluated roads, storm drains, culverts and other. We developed restoration concepts to improve bird habitat for several individual sites that considered several factors:
The next step is to solicit input from agencies, affected landowners, and other stakeholders on the initial concept sketches and refine these to 30% design plans (sizing, benefit evaluation, calculations, cost estimates, etc.). From there, we will identify top sites for implementation and advance designs to permit-ready level.