Stories From The Field

Applying Green Infrastructure to Stem Runoff and Safeguard Puerto Rico’s Corals

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Issue

Playa Tamarindo, a popular beach destination for locals and tourists on Puerto Rico’s Culebra Island, has experienced its share of sediment and pollution runoff issues. Bare soils cause sediment runoff, while cars driven on the beach pose pollution concerns for the local waterway that is part of NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint designation. These land-based sources of sediment and pollution pose a serious threat to coral communities that inhabit the nearshore environment. Managers have made reducing and slowing stormwater runoff a priority.

Process

Watershed managers began working with local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the community to help reduce the sediment and pollution runoff into the watershed. The partners incorporated green infrastructure practices, such as vegetating bare soil and installing a gravel parking lot to help absorb some of the excessive water. Rocks were strategically placed to divert unabsorbed water to more heavily vegetated areas, reducing the runoff into the waterway. Managers used OpenNSPECT, an open-source desktop tool that compares erosion and pollution runoff of various land use scenarios, to evaluate the effectiveness of this restoration activity.

Impact

Through using the OpenNSPECT tool, scientists determined the effectiveness of their work and adapted their efforts as necessary. Initial studies show that overall sediment loads to Playa Tamarindo's marine habitats have decreased, thus reducing the impacts to local coral communities.

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Volunteers from the local community helped design, plant, and water grasses and other vegetation that stabilize and filter stormwater runoff.
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