As a small island state, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of projected climate changes especially due to its coastal dependence and economic status. The islets and cays that form the Grenadines, of which Union Island is a part, are nearly 80% dependent on the marine and coastal environment. Due to the mountainous topography of Union Island, 85% of the population lay on a narrow coastal strip. Increasing frequency of natural disasters and projected sea-level rise could increase Union Island’s vulnerability to coastal flooding, erosion, and storm surge. Since 2007, SusGren has been working with partner organizations to increase coastal resilience to sea-level rise and storm surge through nature-based adaptation.
In the 1990s, a failed marina development in Ashton Lagoon caused significant ecological and socio-economic impacts with both long- and short-term consequences for the community of Ashton. The ‘Ashton Marina Project’ proposed the building of a 300-berth marina complex in the central section of Ashton Lagoon, a causeway connecting Frigate Island to the mainland, a recreation centre on Frigate Island, a large condominium complex on top of the outer reefs, and a 50-acre golf course to be laid over the mangroves. Although the construction company contracted to complete the project declared bankruptcy in 1995, ceasing development, devastating changes to the ecosystem had already been made. Ecological surveys revealed that the causeway bisecting the lagoon led to drastically reduced flow in the inner portions of the lagoon, resulting in eutrophication, increased sedimentation, smothering of corals and seagrass, destruction or loss of habitat, higher levels of pollutants and elevated water temperatures.
This project aims to restore the damage done to Ashton Lagoon’s ecosystem as a result of the ‘Ashton Marina Project’. It is a pilot project for building coastal resilience using ecosystem-based adaptation to provide benefits for humans and nature. This includes restoring flow to the inner lagoon and mangrove woodland, fostering the development of mangrove islands, and creating and maintaining critical habitat for birds, fish, and other marine organisms. SusGren’s Community Field Researchers conduct regular biophysical monitoring to keep track of the health of this changing ecosystem. In addition to water quality and habitat improvements, the project hopes to provide disaster risk reduction and opportunities for climate adaptation. The restoration works will serve to re-purpose the existing infrastructure from the failed marina development into mangrove islands to provide coastal protection and safe harbour for fishers and small boats. The development of a Climate Change Interpretive Centre will support a diversification of livelihood opportunities in the lagoon area. It will act as a platform for education and community outreach through the development of sustainable tourism activities, seamoss farming, apiculture, and more.