National Park Service awards $ 3 million for restoration of coral, vegetation and shoreline

The South Atlantic and Gulf Region National Park Service (NPS) announced the award of seven cooperative agreements totaling $ 3.28 million to address the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on coral reefs, the mangroves and shores of four parks in the US Virgin Islands. These parks are Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Salt River National Historic Park and Ecological Reserve.

“These imperative restoration efforts help the National Park Service conserve endangered natural resources and the resiliency of the coastline in St. Croix and St. John,” said Charles Borders, regional manager of the storm recovery program, National Park Service. . “We are grateful for the collaboration with our partners as we work to improve our understanding of coastal science and climate change adaptation strategies. “

A team of experts made up of federal and non-governmental entities developed a restoration plan to restore coral reefs, treat coral diseases, rebuild mangrove forests and stabilize shorelines in four USVI parks. The following organizations will receive funding from the NPS to make this work possible:

Oceanic Caribbean Restoration and Education Foundation

Coral World and Ocean Reefs Initiative

Iowa State University

Nature conservation

Miami University

University of the Virgin Islands

Beneficiaries will construct and expand existing in-water and on-land nurseries to raise a variety of coral species and cultivate mangroves, buttonwood and sea grapes for planting at selected park restoration sites. They will also treat corals infected with the disease of stony coral tissue loss in the four waters of the park. Data collected on coral treatment and response efforts, disease distribution, rate of spread and affected corals are shared publicly at www.vicoraldisease.org.

Coral reefs and mangroves provide essential shoreline protection from storm surges, habitats for plants and animals, and value to the local economy based on tourism in the USVI. The reefs also provide recreational and educational services to thousands of annual visitors. Indeed, they are very valuable for the local economy based on tourism in the US Virgin Islands. According to the 2020 National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects report, visitor spending and economic contributions to local VI economies amounted to more than $ 96 million in 2020.

Future works will be awarded to implement the next steps in the restoration process, such as site preparation as well as planting of vegetation and corals. These agreements, and more than 100 other projects and agreements administered by NPS in the Caribbean and the Southeastern United States, are supported by $ 207 million in additional funds allocated by Public Law 115-123 for park units. nation significantly affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

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