Experimental reforestation area in the Cuero y Salado refuge, marked by a traditional dugout canoe, called a cayuco in the Garinagu language spoken by many local inhabitants.
Anuar Romero, FUCSA coordinator for the Mangrove Restoration Project, rides a boat down the Cuero River in the Cuero y Salado refuge.
Women fill bags with compost for preparing seedlings for reforestation.
Anuar Romero next to a black mangrove tree he planted three years ago at the sea barrier between the Caribbean Sea and the Cuero lagoon. Black mangroves are valuable for their high salt tolerance and the high-quality honey produced from their blossoms.
Bicycles left behind by poachers hunting for blue crabs. The damage caused by people encroaching on the refuge in search of a meager livelihood is one of the greatest challenges to the Mangrove Restoration Project.
A healthy, natural mangrove forest of the sort the restoration project is attempting to replicate.
The canopy of the undisturbed mangrove forests of Cuero y Salado ascends to as much as 25 meters.
Howler monkeys along the riverbank in the Cuero y Salado refuge. Mangroves are important habitat for monkeys and other non-marine as well as marine species.
Inhabitants of the Cuero y Salado refuge, mostly former Standard Fruit workers and their descendents, are paid by the project to cut out invasive African palm trees.
An area cleared of invasive African palms by community members employed by the Mangrove Restoration Project. African palms out-compete indigenous species for water and nutrients, creating localized monocultures.
Workers on African-palm-cutting detail are allowed to keep up to 10 blue crabs per family during crab season. Blue crab numbers in the refuge have declined significantly over the last 15-20 years.
Carlos Gamboa, who has lived in the Cuero y Salado area most of his life, explains how he has learned to practice diversified agroforestry in a former coconut grove that was decimated by disease in the 1990s.
Anuar Romero stands in front of red mangrove trees planted three years ago on formerly degraded pastureland as part of an effort to restore the natural biodiversity of the original forest.