An appeal is giving out made to members of the public, particularly those who sell umbrellas on the beaches, hoteliers and coastal residents, to avoid uprooting or removing plants and shrubs from the beaches.
Technical Officer at the National Conservation Commission (NCC), Ryan Als, is urging the public to "leave the vegetation. It protects the beach by holding it in place and offers resistance to erosion". He added that the protection also extended to coastal property owners as it ensured that there was no erosion under their walls which could cause them to collapse.
Speaking during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Mr. Als explained that one of the main challenges the NCC faced with its beach re-vegetation project was vandalism. "People are pulling up the trees, those who play sports are trampling them, children are breaking off the branches and people are driving on the beaches," he lamented, noting the problem had improved slightly.
Mr. Als said coastal residents usually wanted in front of their homes free from vegetation and would cut down shrubs planted by the NCC without recognising that they were placed there for nesting turtles and to prevent erosion.
He charged that some hotels also cleared low lying vegetation to create sandy areas for guests to place their chairs, while those who rented umbrellas cleared areas so they could place them in the sand.
The Technical Officer is however, advising members of the public that the root system of those plants helped to stabilise the very beaches they lived, worked and played on. "The fibrous roots bind the sand and hold it in place from waves, surface water and rain," he said. He explained that the leaf cover from low-lying vegetation acted like a mulch so the sand would not be directly impacted from rain water, while the trees held soil in place to prevent it from going into coastal areas. "That is the ecological system right there," he said.
However, Mr. Als pointed out that Barbados’ beaches did not have adequate vegetation for turtle nesting, shade or erosion control. "The ideal coastal environment would be like vegetation coastal woodland first, then low shrubs like sea grapes, and then ground cover like grasses and vines closer to the water’s edge. That is the natural way and there is not a lot of that in Barbados," he disclosed.
He noted the East Coast was the closest beach Barbados had to the "ideal coastal environment", even though it still had issues with erosion and drainage. "For the most part, it is unspoilt," he said.
Mr. Als pointed out that the NCC would continue its efforts at re-vegetating the island’s beaches despite the challenges. He explained most of the propagation was done between November and July when the seedlings were planted.
He said the NCC would liaise with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project and the Coastal Zone Management Unit to collect information on beach requirements, the types of vegetation required, the size and number of trees present. He added that NCC staff would also visit sites and conduct assessments to determine what would be planted and the purpose for which they were required.