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Together for a Greener Bonaire: Restoring Our Forests

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Nature

International Day of Forests 2023

Restoring our forests is essential

A significant part of Bonaire is forested. The forests on our island are incredibly important, which is why it is important that we continue restoring our forests. They prevent soil erosion, maintain groundwater levels, and offer cooler temperatures. Our forests are also home to unique plants and animals, providing spaces for relaxation and recreation. This is why on March 21, 2024, we observe International Day of Forests.

Why are forests vital to us?

Plants and trees, with their roots, hold the soil in place, reducing erosion. They help absorb rainwater into the ground, maintaining the groundwater levels. Forests also positively affect the climate. It’s several degrees cooler under the trees than in direct sunlight. Moreover, plants and trees absorb CO2 (carbon dioxide), which is crucial in combating climate change. Additionally, forests are essential for our well-being.

In much of our dry forests, we mainly see columnar cacti (jatu, kadushi, and kadush’I pushi), pollinated by bats. The fruits of these cacti are vital for birds, lizards, and iguanas. In the hilly western part of our island, there are more shrubs and deciduous trees about three to four meters tall. If you look closely, you’ll notice almost the same types of trees and shrubs everywhere, around ten different kinds. The most known are kui, wabi, pal’I Bonaire, and brasia, although our island has dozens of different tree species.

The current poor state of our nature has a lot to do with our behavior. We still allow grazers, such as goats and donkeys, to roam freely. We also cut down cacti, trees, and shrubs too easily. Urbanization displaces nature. Cacti and trees, sometimes hundreds of years old, are cleared with bulldozers in minutes, a process we call “cleaning,” even though some rare tree species and all trees and cacti thicker than 20.5 centimeters are legally protected.

Reforestation projects

Through reforestation projects, we aim to reverse this downward spiral. In recent years, under the auspices of the public entity of Bonaire, tens of thousands of new trees have been planted, with funding support from the government. More than fifty different types of native trees are available for reforestation. Once these planted trees begin to bear fruit, birds and other animals help spread the seeds further.

We all can contribute by taking care of the cacti and trees we have and by planting trees native to our area. These trees are often more drought-resistant than those from other places.

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Tanya Deen has been living in Bonaire since December 2016. She is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Instructor and enjoys underwater and bird photography. Tanya is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.
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