2,176 ha of mangroves have been destroyed in the Gulf of Fonseca protected area as a result of clearances for shrimp farms which are now abandoned or by accidentally changing the hydrology adjacent to areas that are being used as shrimp farms. The rePLANET Blue project for this area is restoring these areas in a series of 120+ polygons that span areas across the whole Honduran part of the Gulf between the El Salvador and Nicaraguan borders.
The Project Development Document for this project has been submitted to Plan Vivo and the first part of the 25-year long programme has been funded. CODDEFFAGOLF, a Honduran based NGO that co-manages the Gulf of Fonseca protected area with ICF is managing the project in the field and Coastal and Marine Research (CMR) are providing the technical input for the hydrological restoration.
The first part of the project is to restore the hydrological conditions so there are regular tidal flows. Digging of the trenches necessary to restore the tidal flows has begun and by mid August 2022, a total of 865m of primary channels (2m wide x 1m deep) and 2701m of secondary channels (1m wide x 1m deep) have been constructed by a team of local people from the fishing cooperative of APEANA. Over the next few weeks 5 other community groups will be trained to complete the hydrological restoration and there will eventually be multiple teams working each day over the next 18 months to restore the hydrology.
Much of the area will be reforested with Avicennia germinans. This species reproduces with seeds that disperse by floating. In the areas where the hydrology has been completed already large amounts of seeds are dispersing across the newly tidal areas and this will lead to some natural regeneration. However additional seed planting to fill in any gaps will be undertaken once the sediment quality has been restored by regular tidal washing.
The local stakeholders (owners, users and managers of the land) are receiving 67% of the USD19 million budget with the majority of that going to the local communities, either in wages for the restoration work or follow on community development projects to help with housing, education, health and business development. The funder is retiring the carbon credits at regular intervals (3- 5 years) as the carbon is sequestered. However, by the time the credits are retired the world price may be much higher than price paid for credits at the start of the 25-year budgets. Every time carbon credits are retired after a Plan Vivo audit, the world price of land use change carbon credits will be assessed and 60% of any increase in price over the original issuance price will be paid as a bonus payment to the local stakeholders. This could more than double the budgets for the project over the next 25 years depending on how the price of carbon moves.
This is the first example anywhere in the world of indexing carbon payments to communities to the world price of carbon. This is not just an ecosystem restoration project but also a significant investment programme in some of the most impoverished communities in Honduras.
Another unique feature of this project is that the biodiversity uplift obtained by reforesting the area is being quantified by the use of biodiversity credits which will also be issued by Plan Vivo. These credits have also been purchased by the funders of the projects and these will be the first credits to be traded using the Wallacea biodiversity credit methodology anywhere in the world. The sale of the biodiversity credits provides additional funds for the communities.