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The Turtle Lake Conservation Initiative

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Ecological Background

Turtle lake is a saltwater lake that is home to sea-turtles, surrounded by mangroves, and tidally connected through a cave-system to the Atlantic Ocean. The lake is a type of blue hole which are some of most unique and sensitive marine habitats in Caribbean, and at 43 acres Turtle Lake is one of the largest inland blue holes in the Bahamas.

Fernando Bretos snorkeling Turtle Lake.  Courtesy of Neil Ever Obsborne, iLCP

The lake is surrounded by an intact mangrove forest and upland vegetation, and the continuous input of leaves and other organic matter likely contributes to high biological productivity compared to the adjacent ocean. In the cave systems of blue holes specially adapted crustaceans, and other life, have been discovered. Some of these species have not found elsewhere on earth.

The fringe of mangroves around Turtle Lake play an important role in creating the unique structure of the lake, biologically and physically. Not only do they provide shade and nutrients, which helps to support the unique biodiversity found within the lake, these surrounding mangrove forest also help remove and store excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (as does the lakes substrates).  

The Turtle Lake Conservation Initiative

The Kinship Conservation Fellows group assesses Turtle Lake.  Spring 2013.  Photo courtesy of Neil Ever Obsborne and iLCP.

In response to development proposals that would have removed extensive mangrove forest along the lake, the Burrows family initiated the conservation initiative. In 2013 the Burrows invited a team of conservation professionals including marine biologists and ecologists, geographers, architects and hydrologists organized by the Kinship Conservation Fellows to convene on Eleuthera to investigate and report on the market-based conservation opportunities at Turtle Lake. The team met with the Burrows Family in Eleuthera and Nassau to understand the cultural and ecological history of the Lake. 

Shirley Burrows (left) discussed Turtle Lake with Kinship Conservation Fellows Tanya Bryan, Csaba Vaszko, and Fernando Bretos at the Island School Campus. Courtesy of Neil Ever Osborne and iLCP

Following the publication of the Kinship team report, Professor Clark Stevens, of the Woodbury School of Architecture, led a semester-long design studio on the Turtle Lake watershed.  The Burrows visited the design studio team in California to provide background on the lake, and then the studio visited Turtle Lake and presented their findings to the Burrows Family in Nassau Bahamas in December 2013.  In early 2014, the Burrows began by implementing the conservation initiative by restoring the turtle egg laying beach.