2017 – Wetlands for Disaster Risk and Reduction


On Thursday February 2, 2017, Barbados along with the rest of the world, observed World Wetlands Day under the theme; ‘Wetlands for Disaster Risk and Reduction’.

The Ministry of Environment and Drainage used the occasion of World Wetlands Day to raise awareness of the vital role of wetlands in reducing the impacts of extreme events such as storms, flooding and help to build resilience.

As part of the public awareness activity for this year, the Biodiversity Section embarked on tours with approximately 250 students of the Section’s adopted schools, St. Bartholomew Primary, St. Christopher’s Primary, Ellerton Primary and Wesley Hall Infants to Silver Sands Beach during the week January 30 to February 3, 2017. There the students were educated on wetlands and how these areas protect against natural disasters.

Silver Sands beach is a long wide stretch of beach located on the southern coast of the island consisting of two separate bays, sheltered by sand dunes, casuarinas and wild vegetation (Picture 1). It is an important stop over for birds and its sand dunes protect against wind action and beach erosion.

Picture 1: Sand dunes on a stretch of Silver Sands Beach


Before the tour, students were given a brief introduction on wetland areas and their benefits such as protection against storm damage.  The tour commenced with students being shown the sand dunes located on the Silver Sands beach. Officers of the Biodiversity Section of the Ministry of Environment and Drainage and the Coastal Zone Management Unit explained what sand dunes are and the composition of sand which is by the breaking down of the reef naturally and/or the grazing of fishes such as Parrot Fish (Scarcidae sp.), locally known as ‘Chubs’(Picture 2). The students were educated on the morphology of the sand dunes and how they are formed by wind and wave action as well as how the vegetation in and around the dunes help in holding the sand dunes together.

Picture 2: Deputy Director (ag) of the Coastal Zone Management Unit Mr. Antonio Rowe speaking the students of the St. Bartholomew Primary at Silver Sands beach on wetlands and the importance of the sand dunes.
Picture 3: Assistant Project Coordinator Ms. Jenilee Marshall in the Biodiversity Section of the Ministry of Environment and Drainage speaking to the students of the Wesley Hall Infants School about the types of vegetation found in sand dunes and their importance in dune stabilization.

As the tour continued across the beach, there was highlighted an area of significant erosion with fallen trees due to the erosion. Officers of the Biodiversity Section and Coastal Zone Management Unit took this opportunity to discuss with the students the causes of dune erosion. The students were educated on the natural causes of dune erosion such as wind and wave action as well as man-made actions including driving on the sand dunes and the removal of the vegetation. Finally, the officers pointed out to the students an area protruding out from the beach known as a headland. This was the point of land that was high and often with a sheer drop, which extended out into a body of water characterised by high, breaking waves, rocky shores, intense erosion, and steep sea cliffs. It was further explained to the students that due to the extent of the erosion of the headlands at Silver Sands beach, a revetment which was a structure that comprised of boulders, was constructed to absorb the energy of incoming waves.

Picture 4: Erosion of sand dunes at Silver Sands Beach
Picture 5: Headland at Silver Sands beach and the revetment consisting of boulders

The tour concluded with the students being given an activity sheet based on the information discussed.