Progress is being made in wetland forest (mangrove) restoration locally, says University of the West Indies (UWI) Marine Biologist, Dr. Camilo Trench.
Citing a 2013 report published by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which stated that Jamaica had lost more than 2,000 hectares of mangroves between 1989 and 2010, Dr. Trench said that collaborative efforts have led to progress in the rehabilitation, restoration and conservation of mangroves.
“We have made some progress in terms of mangrove rehabilitation in Jamaica. We now have a seedling bank, we have different mangrove nurseries at the Port Royal Lab and the Discovery Bay Marine Lab, we have done lots of research into mangrove restoration, and we are helping different government agencies and NGOs to restore mangroves in their areas or conserve mangroves in their areas,” Dr. Trench said, at a recent Wetlands Awareness Virtual Engagement (WAVE), hosted by the Natural History Museum of Jamaica.
“Right now, we are working alongside NEPA and a private landowner to get 50 acres of mangrove in Trelawny conserved, and a small portion of it will be restored,” he added.
Dr. Trench, who is also a Lecturer and Academic Coordinator at the UWI, is based at the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory and has more than 17 years’ experience in the field of marine ecology.
In collaboration with NEPA and the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), the UWI Marine Laboratories (Port Royal and Discovery Bay) have carried out mangrove restoration work in Portland Cottage, Clarendon.
Mangrove rehabilitation had started along the Palisadoes strip, in partnership with the National Works Agency.
Mangrove restoration and enhancement also took place in Bogue and Lilliput, St. James; Malcolm’s Bay, St. Elizabeth, and Long Bay in Portland.
Dr. Trench shared that although mangroves account for only two per cent of Jamaica’s land mass, they provide valuable services for communities and, by extension, the country and should be conserved as best as possible.
“We have a lot of flood water retention in places like Portmore and Black River, because of the wetlands that soak up millions of gallons of water; they filter nutrients, they act as windbreaks for many types of ships and coastal cities and towns, like Kingston, and have many recreational and cultural uses, as persons go on vessels to have recreation tours, go to ‘crab bush’ and do bird watching,” he said.
He emphasised that conservation is key for the sustainable use of mangrove forests.
“We cannot wait until they are destroyed to try and rehabilitate them. It is going to be too late and in some cases, it is going to be impossible. We need to be pre-emptive. In many cases we are learning from our previous mistakes, but we need more sustainable development to be happening,” Dr. Trench said.
He noted that mangrove rehabilitation is a lengthy and intricate process, and is encouraging interested individuals to partner with professional entities, such as NEPA or the marine laboratories, to be guided in a rehabilitation project.
There is approximately 9,700 hectares of mangrove forests in Jamaica and they are located in all parishes, mainly along the coastline.