Reusing sediments in the most sustainable way and at the same time create new ecosystems is the perfect example of a realization of a nature based solution in the field with added value for the ecosystem and its socio-economic functions. This is the focus of the AquaForest project in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The reuse of dredged sediments is more and more important nowadays. A large amount of dredged material is dumped without sustainable reuse, all around the world. The Guayaquil channel is dredged and maintained by Jan de Nul, creating an opportunity for sediment reuse and nature creation.
Mangrove forests provide important and precious ecosystem services : they protect the coast line, they are efficient carbon sinks, the local population uses the mangroves for fisheries, aquaculture and ecotourism and last but not least mangrove forests are places full of biodiversity. In the Guayas delta there are plenty of natural areas, some of them with mangroves forests.
A consortium between Jan de Nul, Haedes, Mantis, ESPOL, South Pole, UA, VUB, and Fundacion Calisul has been formed to carry out an ambitious pilot project, financially supported by G-STIC and IUCN.
The AquaForest project consists of reusing part of the sediment dredged from the Guayaquil channel to build a new ecosystem island close to the maritime port of Posorja. For this island of 50 ha more than 150.000m3 of sediment will be used. Reforestation of mangroves is the first step in order to create ecosystem services for the wider area.
The pilot project will integrate nature-based solutions in climate mitigation and adaptation strategies in coastal environments, and will also focus on socio-economic and biodiversity challenges. Given the size of the pilot, it will create a diversity of learning options on engineering, ecology, socio-economic values, etc. A large monitoring trajectory is included in the pilot. The local community is actively involved from the start, not only informed but taking part in defining new ecosystem services and finally maintaining the ecosystem and its services. Research by international and locally based universities creates the scientific basis for this nature based engineering project. A large dissemination project is set up in order to inform the nature based solutions community worldwide.