The Institute of Jamaica, through its Natural History Museum, has launched a publication, which focuses on one key aspect of the island’s rich natural heritage, its trees.
The publication entitled: “Endemic Trees of Jamaica” was launched recently, during a ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.
Compiled by botanist at the Museum, Keron Campbell, the 321 page publication, which took six years to complete, documents data on approximately 316 species of endemic trees under some 55 plant families.
Deputy Chairman of the Institute of Jamaica Council, Dr. Barbara Gloudon (right), is presented with a copy of the book, ‘Endemic Trees of Jamaica’, by Project Officer and Botanist at the Institute’s Natural History Museum, Keron Campbell, during the publication’s recent launch at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston
Work on the publication, which was administered by the Natural History Society of Jamaica, was funded by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) at a cost of approximately $5 million.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange, in a brief message delivered by Director of Policy and Monitoring in the Ministry, Tanya Batson-Savage, commended the work of the stakeholders involved in the initiative, which provides documentary evidence of Jamaica’s natural beauty and unique plants.
“Today, we can safely boast ‘here it is, we have 300 endemic trees’, and then we can say, ‘it’s in a book’. So, now, (with the book) that figure is very shareable public knowledge and it is a useful resource,” she said.
She noted that the environment was an important part of Jamaican culture, which is far too often ignored. “People do not recognise the value of this resource and therefore, there is far too much destruction of this environment. As such, I think that we must all strive to change this situation,” Ms. Grange stated.
Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, in a message read by Custos Rotulorum of St. Andrew, Hon. Marigold Harding, noted that the project not only highlighted the country’s biodiversity, but provided a comprehensive database of the number and types of trees that are endemic to Jamaica.
He noted that without such as data, “we may, unknowingly, be losing several species already. These are trees that would become merely a memory preserved in pictures or footnotes in the annals of our natural history,” he contended.
Sir Patrick said that through the publication, and other sources and activities that will be pursued by the Institute of Jamaica, persons would be able to familiarise themselves with aspects of the country’s rich bio-diversity and take the necessary steps to preserve and keep it in a “harmonious balance.”
“We, at King’s House, are particularly pleased with this project. We have been the recipients of some endemic plants from the Natural History Museum of Jamaica, and these will form an endemic garden to be established on the grounds. I encourage Jamaicans to support this project, so that a rich natural history legacy can be left for future generations to enjoy,” Sir Patrick stated.
Guest Speaker, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Graduate Studies, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and Chairman, Natural History Museum, Professor Ronald Young, described the publication as a “very important book”, which goes a long way towards documenting data Jamaica’s endemic trees.
Noting that Jamaicans are not renowned for “our attention to the environment”, Professor Young attributed this to the absence of documented data on this area.
“We haven’t really put these things down in a form that people can look at, assimilate from the time they are in school, and feel that this is something exciting and important to notice. It is something that we need to pay more attention to. In order to get our people to pay attention to our natural environment, it is up to people like us to highlight it, record it, (and) present it to people in a way that makes them say, ‘that’s interesting, that’s important’,” he stated.
He stressed that ways must be found to prevent loss of flora, particularly of endemic species, as well as to “deeply understand” their uniqueness at the genetic level.
The publication’s contents as well as additional images will be compiled on a compact disc shortly, and made available to the public. Arrangements are being made to donate copies of the book to some libraries and educational institutions.
Copies can be secured from the Natural History Museum, Institute of Jamaica, 10-16 East Street, downtown Kingston.