Aruba's first World Wetlands Day activity

On 1 February 2015, Aruba had its first World Wetlands Day Mangrove Clean-up in the island's only Ramsar site- the Spanish Lagoon

On the 2nd of February worldwide the spotlight is turned to wetland ecosystems and their importance to local communities. This day is known as the World Wetlands Day, which was inaugurated by the Ramsar Convention.

Wetlands: why should I care?
We are convinced that wetlands provide a multitude of benefits, including filtering our water, ensuring biodiversity, protecting our coastlines and coral reefs, mitigating climate change and finally boosting ecotourism by providing green landscapes.

Aruba’s coral reef ecosystems are sustained by mangrove ecosystems. However a baseline study of Aruba’s mangroves showed that similarly to other small island nations in the Caribbean, these amazing ecosystems are in serious danger of disappearing. This is often because of humans treating a wetland as if they were a wasteland; a place to be drained, filled in, burnt off and re-purposed. In fact, scientific studies show that 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. Measured against the 18th century, an estimated of 87% of mangrove forest areas are now gone.

So what can one do to help turn the tide?
Organize a wetland clean-up! Many of our mangrove forests are degrading because of man-made debris. Die-off in mangrove trees are often caused by plastic debris that suffocates their roots. Hence, we are organizing a Mangrove Clean-Up event in the Spanish Lagoon area (Aruba’s only Ramsar site), by inviting the local public through social media and press releases. The area of Spanish Lagoon was assigned as a wetland by Ramsar Convention. The Spanish Lagoon has a surface comprised of 70 hectares and its coordinates are 12º30’N 070º00’W. The Spanish lagoon has different kinds of habitats which includes the following; saltmarshes, mangroves and salt water lagoon. The highest end is dry and arid and is part of the wetland that captures rainwater from “Rooi Frances”, “Rooi Taki” and “Rooi Bringamosa”. Besides the dry areas there are the mangrove areas that consist of different species of mangrove and which inhabits different kind of fauna like birds, fish, invertebrates. On the southern part of the Spanish lagoon is a lagoon that consists of seawater and during rainy season the water becomes brackish. The organizers chose this area because it is an wetland which is locally and internationally of importance and because it's protection deserves more attention by the local public and government.

The first WWD event in Aruba
This initiative arose after Zaida Everon, Biology Teacher of Colegio Arubano (High School) and Ing. Tatiana Becker (local mangrove expert) delivered a workshop to her high school students concerning the mangrove ecosystems on the island of Aruba. The local concerns (expressed especially on social media) about the detrimental impacts of development projects along the coastline were a driving factor in the decision to take action in protecting our local wetlands. Good timing played an important role as well; firstly, WWD is right around the corner and secondly two exchange students from the University of Utrecht were looking to do a thesis project about mangrove conservation and restoration on our island. 

Finally, the organizer’s goal is to keep spreading the love for our beautiful wetlands by organizing different activities such as workshops, lectures, mangrove restoration and a photo-exhibition and hence protecting the future of our mangroves.

Look out for highlights of this World Wetlands Day activity in Aruba!