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Monday, August 25, 2014

Sokone Mangrove Reforestation

I finished in-service training last week, but decided to postpone my return to Teyel for a few days to help with a mangrove reforestation event in a town called Sokone.  There aren’t too many mangroves in Minnesota, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than that the area had a reputation for being one of the most beautiful in Senegal.
Did not disappoint.

Mangroves are important for many reasons – they stop soil erosion and are therefore important to combat the desertification that threatens most of Senegal, they protect shorelines, they're a carbon sink to help fight global warming, and they're prime animal habitat.

In many areas of Senegal, mangrove forests have been cut down to a fraction of their historical sizes.  Reforestation efforts are important because mangroves have the reproductive strategy of many trees – they produce thousands of seeds (or propagules, in this case), and very few propagules find an appropriate place to grow.  By collecting, preparing, and planting the mangrove propagules, we increase the probability that trees will grow.  Unfortunately, even after preparing the propagules, spacing them properly, and planting them with our best care, their growth isn’t a sure thing.  I’ve heard that mangrove reforestations have a 10-50% success rate, though sometimes it's as high as 70%.  We planted thousands of propagules, expecting that most of them would fail, but some would succeed.   Insert metaphor for Peace Corps.  Heh...

Reforestation was really easy, especially because there were so many people helping.  At low tide, the team went out into the warm, salty, waist-deep water of the mud flats to pull propagules off mature mangrove trees.

Each propagule looked like a thick green bean and was about 4-12 inches long.

We prepared the propagules by pulling off the little bulbs on the tops of them, throwing away any that were off-colored or broken.

Then we stuck the propagules in the mud, trying to keep roughly 1-meter spacing.  No pictures of that because it started to rain and I feared for my camera, but I think you can imagine it.  Here is the aftermath:
Field of Dreams.

Then we went swimming, drank beer, and danced to pop music from 2013 because none of us had anything newer than that on our iPods.