Mangrove Estero Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Puntarenas National Wetland in Costa Rica

Since 2020, Tierra Pura Foundation together with Conservation International and Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), support the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) of Costa Rica, in an ambitious project for the restoration of 300 hectares and conservation of 3000 ha of mangroves in the Wetland Estero Puntarenas and Associated Mangroves, located in the central canton of Puntarenas.

The restoration of these ecosystems is based on 18 months of technical and scientific investigation. A team of more than 20 experts in environmental, social sciences and biodiversity management analysed the technical and scientific information and proposed a  technical protocol for ecological restoration to be implemented in the degraded mangrove areas of the Estero Puntarenas Wetland.

The analysis included the micro-topography of the terrain, characteristics of the hydroperiod, physicochemical variables of water and soil, flooding patterns, spatial and temporal variability of salinity and the composition and structure of mangroves.

The proposal includes hydrological rehabilitation through the reopening of new channels, the clearing of natural channels, topographic levelling and the removal of accumulated necromass, among others.

Project progress

Implementation works to restore the topography and water flow in 156 ha, started in September 2021, it is expected that this area will recover salinity values suitable for the establishment of mangrove species, which will be actively supported with direct planting in areas of greatest difficulty.

Along with the canalization activities, the recovery of more than 140 additional hectares of abandoned shrimp farms in the Cipanci mangrove is planned.

The field work is being carried out by specialized machinery combined with manual labor in areas that are difficult to access. These tasks are being carried out by crews from the surrounding communities, who contribute their knowledge of the terrain and their experience. These crews will also be responsible for maintenance work and community monitoring in the future.

Detail of the channel system constructionstarted in September 2021 CI and CATIE. Source: CI-CATIE

This project has influenced the inclusion of specific targets on mangrove restoration and conservation in Costa Rica's NDC submitted to the UNFCCC in 2020.

Its importance and impact are reflected in the comments of the main participants:

According to Miguel Cifuentes, CATIE scientist, "this innovative project of rehabilitation of an ecosystem of critical importance for the adaptation and mitigation of climate change, due to its great magnitude, represents ahistoric milestone in terms of how to design and develop mangrove ecological restoration in the country and in the entire Central American region. This experience is invaluable as an example for other countries in the region and the Caribbean.”.

Proposed area and activity to initiate restoration activities. Source: Google Earth

For Jacklyn Rivera, coordinator of SINAC's National Wetlands Programme, "The success of this restoration project lies in the scientific basis, but more than anything else in the partners´ interest to provide a convincing solution and pay a historical debt with the largest mangrove rehabilitation project in the country. Furthermore, they have recognised the potential to re-generate the services that the ecosystem will generate for the benefit of the local inhabitants and the country in general".

Ana Gloria Guzmán, executive director of Conservation International Costa Rica, highlights "the joint effort developed with the National Wetlands Programme, CATIE and ACOPAC. Mangroves are vital for the wellbeing of local populations, and the recovery and management of these ecosystems with the support from communities is, moreover, an essential element that we are developing to ensure that conservation actions are sustainable over time.”.

According to Rafael Gutiérrez Rojas, SINAC's executive director, "the project is of utmost importance for SINAC and for the country, because it supports nature-based solutions and initiatives to combat climate change and contributes to the restoration of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems. This is a key aspect and in line with this year's official theme "Ecosystem Restoration", given the urgency of preventing, halting and reversing the worldwide degradation of these ecosystems, in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030".

Signing of partnership agreements with local communities in July 2021. Source: CI
Group of participants in the discussion for the elaboration of local conservation agreements. Source: CI
State of the lands of the Protected Area invaded by sugar cane cultivation, with mangrove area in the background. Source: José Quirós
State of mangrove degradation inside the Protected Area at one of the intervention sites. Source: José Quirós

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