Coralita, we're gonna beat ya! The social and ecological contexts of invasive plant management in the Caribbean
Reforestation efforts and Coralita management can reinforce one another, and we should have a Coralita-free buffer below Signal Hill. All attendees at the meeting organised by Elizabeth and me and facilitated by CNSI agreed on these matters. The 30th of October 2018, we had the pleasure to discuss with the deputy government commissioner, Stenapa and LVV our insights into Coralita so far and give short and long term recommendations for management. Read the highlights here!
We shared three hands-on ideas for Coralita projects: to establish a demonstration & motivation site, a research & test area, and an Adopt a tree programme. The demonstration site should be a centrally located and well-known location overgrown by Coralita, which would be transformed into a more attractive use. On Saba, we ran a pilot where we replaced Coralita with lemon trees. For Statia, we suggested to clean the Deep Yard and make it into a nice area for the community to use, sending a message that Coralita removal is possible and worthwhile. A research area would serve to answer remaining questions, such as “are pigs a viable removal method for Coralita?” or “after careful herbicide application, how quickly does Coralita recover?”. Gershon Lopes (LVV) suggested to use the area along the beach down from the Bay Path for this. A research area requires long term commitment, since to get reliable and informative results, you need to run tests for a couple of years. Lastly, we suggested an Adopt a Tree programme in which a person, organization or school class takes on the responsibility to keep one tree free from Coralita. In this spirit, Elizabeth organized multiple Coralita clean-ups on Statia, focused on the Tamarind trees below the King’s well.
Next to these approaches, we discussed priority areas for Coralita management on Statia. Firstly, there are some spots where it is creeping up the Quill, such as the trail head at Rosemary lane, the road to the Radio tower, and at the trail head of Upper Round Hill. For these areas, reforestation and removal of the vine should be combined, to keep it from spreading higher up the Quill. To that end, Coralita should be part of trail management, so it can be spotted and removed as soon as possible, which is the easiest and cheapest way to keep it in check. Secondly, there are some areas where Coralita should be monitored closely, namely Fort de Windt and Boven. At White wall there are some small specks of Coralita, and the gullies could be channels for the vine the spread. In the Venus Bay gully it isn’t present yet, to our knowledge, but here too the gully could be a moist place for the vine to settle.
We also spoke about erosion, which is a major concern for the Statia cliffs. Trees and shrubs have a much more elaborate root system than Coralita, and therefore are preferable over Coralita. However, compared to nothing, the Coralita bush at least hampers heavy rains from washing away the top soil. Coralita should thus be prevented from spreading to cliffs that currently have native vegetation, which makes the large stretch of Coralita below Signal Hill worrisome. The participants all agreed that a buffer zone, free from Coralita, is needed below Signal Hill, to keep it from spreading into the park. Also, Elizabeth noticed that the cliffs of Corre Corre Bay are covered with Sea grape. This is a very good erosion preventing and native species, which happens to produces grapes that birds and people alike can enjoy. Therefore, we recommend planting Sea grape above and on cliffs, to prevent erosion.
As for removal methods, we stressed the health and ecological risks involved with herbicides. Elizabeth has experience with this from when she worked for the Wisconsin government, and does not think spraying is the solution for Statia. Moreover, run-off from the steep slopes will damage the reefs. Therefore, digging it up and regular mowing is the best approach, keeping other plants and humans safe. The full presentation can be found below, and of course you can always contact us for further questions.