Cay Bay Post-Restoration Assessment
The Cay Bay restoration site is located within the Seaside Nature Park (thus it has been referred to as “Seaside Nature Park” in previous reports related to this project). The park itself is approximately 10 hectares in size and located on a peninsula between Cole Bay and Cay Bay of St. Maarten. This park presented a unique opportunity to restore undeveloped coastal terrestrial scrub habitat.
The pre-restoration botanical assessment carried out between July 5th and 9th to establish baseline data on vascular plant diversity and structure revealed that the main vegetation types present within the park are secondary and tertiary Caribbean Dry Forest/Shrubland. While the park has had a history of disturbance from farming in the past, it has largely returned to a secondary state of semi-natural vegetation. However, this is characterized by the presence of several invasive species, mainly: Acacia (Acacia farnesiana), Corolita (Antigonon leptopus), Jasmine (Jasminum flumense), and Saw Grass (Panicum maximum). This assessment also revealed two areas (Figure 1) ideal for restoration as they both presented degraded land, accessibility with water, and potential for impact in re-establishing natural systems (Freid, 2017).
The “Exposed” site was found to be dominated by invasive Acacia, but unfortunately a layer of topsoil for planting could not be determined. The “Lignum” site, which had been partially cleared of invasive Acacia, presented about 10-20 cm of topsoil throughout. Therefore, after discussion with the site owners, it was decided to focus restoration efforts on the “Lignum” site.
The “Lignum” site (from now on referred to as the restoration site) had been used extensively for agriculture but had lain fallow for decades. The area recommended for restoration was found to be approximately 25 x 50 meters and characterized by patches of native trees and shrubs (Figure 2). The botanical assessment revealed 25 species observed within the restoration area, see Freid (2017) for a full list of species identified. While there is a large Lignum Vitae near the restoration site, there were no actual Lignums within the restoration zone.
A survey of herpetological and invertebrate diversity was conducted on August 9th, 2017 at both proposed restoration locations and an undisturbed part of the park (Yokoyama 2017). During the assessment, approximately 86 species were identified. Both the Botanical and Herpetological Assessment were performed before Hurricane Irma to serve as baseline studies to assess whether restoration actions had increased biodiversity at the end of the project. While they no longer serve as baselines due to extensive storm damage, the information is still used as a basis for this final assessment. However, we are hesitant to draw any conclusions about changes in biodiversity based on the initial assessments.