The Importance of Anguilla's Wetlands
Anguilla's wetlands are of international importance for biodiversity, in particular its 25 salt ponds (shallow brackish lagoons) on the mainland and the offshore islands. Accordingly, three of the salt ponds and four offshore islands are listed as Important Bird Areas (IBAs). These wetlands and offshore cays are proposed Ramsar Sites (Wege and Anadon-Irizarry 2008; Pienkowski 2005). The salt ponds, their immediate catchments, the sand bars that separate the coastal lagoons from the sea, proximal reefs, and sea grass beds are diverse and interesting environments. The ponds support internationally important populations of both migratory and breeding water birds. The surrounding scrub supports reptiles and range-restricted birds and the beach provides nesting habitat for Green (Endangered), Hawksbill (Endangered), and Leatherback (Critically Endangered) sea turtles. At least four islands have internationally important populations of breeding seabirds as well as reef systems that are protected by Marine Park legislation and herptile fauna including the endemic Sombrero ground lizard.
The ponds also provide important ecosystem services, Anguilla is flat and prone to flooding in heavy rain and the pond system provides flood storage areas and the beach crest and wetland systems act as natural coastal defences against storm surges. Areas of former wetlands that have been built on are particularly prone to flooding and to date the importance of the wetlands in flood risk management has not been incorporated into development plans and guidelines. Similarly the ponds have a role in sediment catchments (preventing sediments reaching reef systems) and ground-water recharging.
Threats to Anguilla's wetlands
Anguilla's human population is approximately 15 000 and rapid development in the transport infrastructure has led to growth in the tourism and building sectors. Property developments have burgeoned and currently all of the main island's salt ponds are threatened to some degree. Some ponds have already been partially filled for coastal development and building continues to encroach on the catchments and pond margins. Aside from the immediate loss of biodiversity, much of the development on or around wetlands is unlikely to be sustainable or resilient to climate change. The islands are threatened by development (for example, suggestions to construct an airport on Scrub Island or a proposal for luxury hotel and golf course development on Dog Island) and by invasive species; at least three of the island IBAs have had rats introduced.
Current Wetland Conservation Policy and Initiatives
In 2005, in response to development pressure on Anguilla's salt ponds, the Government of Anguilla (GOA), through the Department of Environment (DOE), drafted the Wetlands Policy of Anguilla. This document seeks to guide the wise use of Anguilla's wetlands through six key strategies: 1 Managing wetlands in the Anguillian territory; 2 Implementing Government policies and legislation and delivering Government programmes; 3 Involving the Anguillian people in wetlands management; 4 Working in partnership with land owners (communities); 5 Ensuring a sound scientific basis for policy and management; and 6 International actions. The Biodiversity and Heritage Conservation (BHC) Act, passed by the House of Assembly and enacted by the Governor in 2009 supports the Wetlands Policy. This Act provides for the establishment of protected areas as well as the protection and preservation of species. Although the Wetlands Policy for Anguilla remains in draft form, with the enactment of the BHC Act, wetlands monitoring, management, and conservation continues to be a priority for the ANT and the DOE.
In 2005, in an effort to support Wetland Policy Strategy 5, the ANT supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), established a bird-monitoring programme. The purpose of the initiative was to record bird populations on the salt ponds. This information has assisted in the designation of the mainland's IBAs and has been used to inform decisions on coastal development applications.
Existing designations and planning procedures, however, have not been adequate to protect these important wetlands. Nationally, only one of the salt ponds is classified as a protected area. Three of the mainland ponds, Cove Pond, Long Salt Pond, and Gray Pond, have been listed as IBAs. This designation, however, is limited in its effectiveness as a conservation tool because it only covers a small proportion of the lagoons used by the birds. IBA listing requires reviewing with urgency in light of new monitoring data collected by the ANT that suggests much many more of the wetlands should qualify as IBAs.
Anguilla is a party to the Ramsar Convention through the UK Government; however, to date no Ramsar Sites have been designated. A wetland inventory undertaken in 1990 requires updating with recent monitoring and data and current threats and Pienkowski (2005) recommended that five wetlands be designated. An updated inventory and designation of qualifying sites would provide a strong conservation tool.
Despite the considerable and urgent threats to Anguilla's wetlands an enabling policy environment exists for a coherent conservation programme. Namely, Anguilla is party to the Ramsar Convention and already has a policy framework for the wise use of wetlands (albeit in draft form), an existing wetland inventory compiled provides a sound basis for an updated wetland inventory and the institutional capacity has been greatly enhanced with a capable Anguilla National Trust working with the Department of Environment. At the same time, limited resources and capacity has precluded adequate wetland management and Ramsar site designation.
Problem Statement and Mitigating ActionsCurrently Anguilla's wetland resources are an under valued natural resource that are threatened by poorly planned development and invasive species and Anguilla does not have a tool kit for wetland conservation. This project will develop an informed and stakeholder agreed action plan for wetland conservation alongside the appropriate designation of priority sites.
Problem 1. The current wetland resources are not adequately documented, the existing wetland inventory being out of date, whilst the salt ponds are threatened by development.
Action 1. Update the existing wetland inventory (status, condition, and threats) for Anguilla to be used as an information resource, and planning resource and advocacy tool
Problem 2.Existing designations are not effective conservation tools: monitoring data indicates IBAs do not fully extend to cover all internationally important biodiversity interest and whilst Anguilla is a party to the Ramsar Convention no sites have been designated, nor submitted for designation.
Action 2.The project will review IBA designations to ensure biodiversity interests are adequately included, and qualifying sites will be submitted for Ramsar designation.
Problem 3.Currently no stakeholder agreed wetland conservation plan for Anguilla is in place.
Action 3.Agree a five-year stakeholder agreed action plan for the protection and management of Anguilla's wetland resources which conforms with the existing policy framework.
Problem 4.There is inadequate capacity (knowledge base and technical skills) in country to implement a wetland programme aligned to international agreements.Action 4.This project will increase technical capacity among the implementing organisation and supporting agencies and will lead to the development of a fundraising plan to support active wetland conservation, and will undertake a public awareness campaign directed at decision makers and the general public.
Problem 5.There is limited public awareness about the ecosystem services that wetlands provide or the importance of maintaining wetland health and integrity to mitigate potential climate change impacts (for example, increased flooding).
Action 5.This project will increase public awareness though the development and implementation of a multi-media campaign directed at decision-makers and the general public.
The ultimate beneficiaries of the project will be the people of Anguilla for the conservation of biodiversity for future generation and provision of ecosystem services relating to natural filtration systems and hydrological function, and flood risk management that will contribute to climate change adaptation measures by safeguarding natural floodwater storage areas and developing practical guidelines on development in flood prone areas.
- A National Wetland Inventory is compiled documenting the condition of, and threats to Anguilla's mainland salt ponds and off islands;
- Revised IBA designations create more effective IBA management units;
- A National Plan documents the priorities for the Ramsar Designation and wetland protection and management;
- Priority sites identified in the National Wetlands Plan are submitted for Ramsar designation;
Technical capacity of environmental agencies is enhanced to manage wetlands;
Decision-makers have an increased awareness of the value and threats to Anguilla's wetlands;
Enhanced public awareness and support for wetland conservation.
Under Output 1
- Monthly wetland and terrestrial bird counts are conducted;
- National wetland bird database is updated and maintained;
- Bird monitoring data is reviewed and a report on the Status of Anguilla's Wetland Birds (2006 - 11) is published;
- Habitat assessment/inventory methodology and data sheets for Anguilla's mainland salt ponds are produced;
- Wetland resources are mapped on a GIS system and made available to key agencies;
- The National Wetland Inventory documenting the condition of, and threats to Anguilla's mainland salt ponds and islands is compiled and disseminated;
Under Output 2:
Under Output 3:
- IBA data sheets incorporating new data from the database are revised;
- Revisions are agreed to with relevant GOA agencies and decision-makers and other local stakeholders (through formal and informal meetings) and BirdLife International and data are submitted to the World Bird Database
- A 3-day stakeholder workshop, facilitated by the Ramsar Specialist, to present the results of the Inventory and to develop the National Plan is held;
- A National Plan identifying and reporting the priorities for the designation and management of Ramsar sites is produced and disseminated.
Under Output 4:
Under Output 5:
- Priority sites identified in the National Wetlands Plan are submitted for Ramsar designation;
- A 3-day workshop, facilitated by the Ramsar Specialist, to train and assist project team in Ramsar designation process;
- Ramsar Information Sheets (including maps) are completed and submitted for designation according to priorities identified in the National Plan.
Under Output 6:
- Technical capacity of environmental agencies are enhanced to manage wetlands;
- A one-week on-island training workshop in monitoring, assessments, and strategic planning is developed and implemented;
- On-going technical support and training from the RSPB, BirdLife International, and a Ramsar Specialist is provided;
- Regional links with Ramsar Authorities (particularly Bermuda and TCI) are fostered, including one exchange visit to Bermuda;
- A fundraising plan is developed and fundraising training and mentoring is undertaken;
Under Output 7:
- Decision-makers have an increased awareness of the value and threats to Anguilla's wetlands;
- Quarterly meetings and on-going advocacy with Ministers and the Governor's Office are held;
- Enhanced public awareness and support for wetland conservation
- Conduct pre-project level of wetlands awareness questionnaire
- 4 radio programmes and 2 public service announcements about Anguilla's salt ponds are aired and 6 school presentations and 2 public presentation are held;
- Conduct post-project level of wetlands awareness questionnaire
Risk 1: Hurricanes and adverse weather disrupt field components of the project
Management: The timeframe for the fieldwork is postponed until the weather improves.
Additional time is allocated.
Risk 2: Lack of political will to develop sustainable wetland management under pressure from development?
Management: Ministers, Department Heads, and the general public are involved in the project from the outset. The goal of the project is conservation, sustainable use, and maintaining wetland ecological health and integrity, while noting that built development may occur. Therefore, this project also seeks to promote best practices, wise use, and smart growth around all of Anguilla's wetlands - regardless of whether or not they are legally protected or proposed to be protected by the interdisciplinary Stakeholder Committee. These principles and concepts will also be encouraged and pushed whenever development proposals are submitted and comments are requested.
- Government of Anguilla (including, inter alia, Department of Environment Department of Physical Planning, Department of Land and Surveys, Department of Disaster Management,)
- Statutory Bodies (Anguilla National Trust, Anguilla Tourist Board)
This project will directly contribute to people's livelihoods. The revenue generated by the tourism industry comprises more than 75% of Anguilla's Gross Domestic Product. Most tourism activities occur along the island's coastline - which is also the most vulnerable to storm damage, ground seas, and climate change. Most of Anguilla's wetlands are also close to the coastline, usually separated from the sea by sandbars and sand dunes of varying height and width. Anguilla's wetlands, in addition to its beaches, are being pressured by tourism development including in-filling, pollution, and vegetation removal. Such activities affect the wetlands' abilities to serve as catchment areas, to filter nutrients and runoff, and to act as a buffer against storm damage. This in turns increases the coastline's vulnerability and hence the built development that occurs along it. By better understanding, managing, and conserving wetland habitat and biodiversity, Anguilla's coastal areas and coastal tourism industry will also benefit as best practices, wise use, and site-appropriate development are encouraged and supported. Ensuring that wetland ecosystem services are maintained will also help to reduce the impacts of climate change and, in turn, protect tourism investments and development properties. Furthermore, as ecotourism grows worldwide, there is much potential for growth in this tourism area - with Anguilla's wetlands serving as centrepiece - on the island, thereby opening up local business and job opportunities.
Central to this project is building and supporting the links that exist among healthy ecosystems (in this case wetland ecosystems), a healthy economy, and healthy population.
Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Through developing an informed participatory planning process that involves Government Agencies and a range of stakeholders the project will support the guiding principals of the Environmental Charter, in particular: 3. Ensure that environmental considerations are integrated within social and economic planning processes, promoted sustainable patterns of production and consumption within the Territory; 5. Commit to open and consultative decision-making on development and plans which may affect the environment; ensure that environmental impact assessments include consultation with stakeholders; 9. Promote publications that spread public awareness of the special features of the environment in Anguilla; promote within Anguilla the guiding principles set out above.
This project also supports Principle 2 Integrate Social, Economic, and Environmental Considerations into National Development Policies, Plans, and Programmes, Principle 3 Improve on Legal and Institutional Frameworks, Principle 4 Ensure Meaningful Participation by Civil Society in Decision Making, Principle 7 Foster Broad-based Environmental Education, Training, and Awareness, Principle 11 Ensure the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, Principle 12 Protect Cultural and Natural Heritage, Principle 13 Protect and Conserve Biological Diversity, and Principle 17 Negotiate and Implement Multi-lateral Environmental Agreements of the Anguilla National Environmental Management Strategy and Action Plan.
It also builds a foundation for the protection of priority sites and hence contributes to Principal 2 of the Environmental Charter. Ensure the protection and restoration of key habitats, species and landscape features through legislation and appropriate management structures and mechanism, including a protected areas policy, and attempt the control and eradication of invasive species.
The Project will also develop a programme of work that will begin to fulfil Anguilla's commitments under the Ramsar Convention, and the project is designed to follow Ramsar guidance on the designation of sites, in particular according to Article 2, &designate suitable wetlands within its territory for inclusion in a List of Wetlands of International Importance, Article 3 &formulate and implement their planning so as to promote the conservation of the wetlands included in the List, and as far as possible the wise use of wetlands in their territory. The project will work towards Article 4 including &promote the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl by establishing nature reserves on wetlands& and &promote the training of personnel competent in the fields of wetland research, management and wardening.
The project also conforms to the principles of Convention of Biological Diversity, in particular under Article 6. General Measures for Conservation and Sustainable Use, (a) Develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or adopt for this purpose existing strategies, plans or programmes and (b) Integrate as far as possible and as appropriate the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans and policies. It is also highly relevant to Article 8. In-Situ Conservation in particular:
(b) Develop, where necessary, guidelines for the selection, establishment and management of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity and (e) Promote environmentally sound and sustainable development in areas adjacent to protected areas with a view to furthering protection of these areas and Article 13. Public Education and Awareness (a) Promote and encourage understanding of the importance of, and the measures required for, the conservation of biological diversity, as well as its propagation through media, and the inclusion of these topics in educational programmes.
The wetlands support internationally important breeding and migratory water-bird populations and the project actions are also relevant to the Convention on Migratory Species.
The project is also pertinent to Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region: Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife in the Wider Caribbean Region (SPAW Protocol) and the principals of the St. George's Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
Funded by FCO/DFID Overseas Territories Environment Programme, 2011, project no ANG 801