What we know
Great Pond was once a healthy wetland area made up of a mangrove lagoon near the mouth, shallow basin near the center, and mudflats surrounded by coastal vegetation. Depending on the wet and dry seasons, the pond and its surrounding mudflats were historically used by Crucians to fish, crab and gather salt. Over the last half century, the vegetation in the pond has changed considerably, with mangroves expanding in coverage in the early 1990s, adding small islands of mangrove trees to what had been an open-water system. In late 2015, a substantial die-off of mangroves in the interior of the pond occurred, resulting in the grey landscape you see today. The mangrove lined channel which once supplied the pond with its saltwater input has also closed up, due to sand accumulation, and buildup of other organic debris.
Recent work by UVI sought to describe the biotic and physical changes in the Pond. Here’s the infographic that explores the results of that scientific research.
What we still don’t understand
The exact cause of the dead stand of trees you see today is still unknown. Mangroves are famously tolerant of variable conditions, but a leading hypothesis is that the extreme drought in 2015 stressed these trees to the breaking point. Some additional stress and death was observed after Hurricane Maria.
We don’t fully understand the relationship of all the hydrological interactions in the Great Pond area. Seawater/tidal fluctuations, groundwater and rainfall all play interconnected roles. The area exhibits some anomalies, like bizarre mud upwellings, which we don’t yet understand. In addition, human activity, such as earth-moving for development, have changed historical waterflows, both on the east and west sides of the Pond. Siltation (fine earth sediment accumulation) may be responsible for the observed shallowing of Great Pond. Siltation can also cause mangrove death.
What is DPNR doing?
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources has been aware of and monitoring the condition of Great Pond for some time, and financed the above-mentioned study. The Department has also been seeking funding opportunities to pursue restoration of the Pond. However, funding opportunities are interested in seeing good evidence of a sustainable, long-term restoration solution as well as broad community support and concern for the initiative.
The land surrounding Great Pond is privately owned, therefore any intervention such as dredging the channel would require commitment and interest on the part of the landowner(s), and this needs to be demonstrated to funding agencies as well.
How can I help?
As mentioned above, funding agencies need to see a demonstrated community interest in the health and importance of this system.
To do that, the Department needs to hear from the community, and this is where you can help!
If you or your family have old photographs of Great Pond, oral histories related to the area or would like to write a letter of support for Great Pond’s restoration, please click the button below to upload these materials. You can also email them to [email protected].