The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary: Why is it important to preserve the mangrove forest?
Figure 1. Aerial view of Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary
In creating the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, one of the main goals was to protect the Graeme Hall
Mangrove Forest, in addition to engaging in educational and research initiatives. The Graeme Hall
Wetlands have many features that are worthy of conserving. The most commonly recognized ones are:
a) it is the last remaining mangrove forest in Barbados,
b) it is one of only three primary roost areas for migratory and native waterbirds in Barbados within the
Eastern Caribbean Flyway, and
c) it is a "living laboratory" offering working opportunities to researchers and scientists to examine
native Barbados landscapes.
It is indisputable that mangrove forests are important ecosystems. According to a study published by
the University of California in 2020, the natural coastal defenses provided by mangrove forests reduce
annual flooding significantly in critical hotspots around the world. Without mangroves, flood damages
would increase to more than $65 billion USD annually, and 15 million more people would be affected
by the flooding.1
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, noted that
mangroves which are found in 123 countries around the world – provide ecosystem services worth up
to $57,000 USD per hectare per year, storing carbon that would otherwise be released into the
atmosphere and providing over 100 million people who live in their vicinity with a variety of goods and
services such as fisheries and forest products, clean water, and protection against erosion and extreme
Furthermore, he mentions that the escalating destruction and degradation of mangroves – driven by
land conversion for aquaculture and agriculture, coastal development, and pollution – is occurring at
an alarming rate, with over a quarter of the earth’s original mangrove coverage now lost.3
Mangrove wetlands are also home to a variety of wildlife, including numerous fish, crab and shrimp
species, molluscs and mammals.4 They represent a fundamental component of human well-being for
any urban ecosystem facilitating physical activity, relaxation, and also form a refuge from noise.5
If Barbados’ Government continues encroaching the mangroves, protected buffer zones and lagoons
(such as the Graeme Hall Swamp) associated with sea-level rise, it could have severe implications for
future development, recreational activities, and land use in their coastal zone.
Throughout history, a few well-known examples of open green spaces such as Trinidad & Tobago’s
Queen Savannah Park, New York’s Central Park and London’s Hyde Park have played a significant role
in economic and development by promoting their cities as tourism destinations.
Most of us know that environmental preservation comes at a price that is not easily justified using
standard economic investment rules. We believe that the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary and its
associated 240-acre wetland and upland buffer lands are to Barbados what the 842-acre Central Park
was to New York nearly 140 years ago.
If preserved as a natural area for recreation, education and conservation the Graeme Hall Wetlands
worth more than $550M USD.6
For all the reasons mentioned above, therein lies the importance of preserving the Graeme Hall
Wetlands for both wildlife and its citizens as a legacy for future generations of Barbadians.
Figure 2. World distribution map of mangroves7