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Story Highlights

  • SRC and NEPA have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to protect the country’s rich biodiversity.
  • The MoU focuses on four primary areas: protecting the Jamaican endemic plants using Tissue Culture.
  • Signing of the MoU took place at the offices of the SRC at the Hope Gardens complex in Kingston, on June 4.

The Scientific Research Council (SRC) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to protect the country’s rich biodiversity.

The MoU focuses on four primary areas: protecting the Jamaican endemic plants using Tissue Culture; maintaining an in vitro germplasm for genetically identical planting materials; propagating endemic and endangered plants for introduction into the wild; and exploring the development of molecular diagnostic tools to identify and characterize plants that are endemic to Jamaica.

Signing of the MoU took place at the offices of the SRC at the Hope Gardens complex in Kingston, on June 4.

At the outset, two species of plant are to be the subject of protection. They are the Malpighi Proctorii and the Turnera Campaniflora. It is expected that these plants will be protected and through tissue culture, planted in other locations. They will also undergo testing for medicinal benefits.

Jamaica is ranked fifth in the world for its biodiversity with over 173 families of flowering plants and approximately 784 species are endemic to the island.

Chief Executive Officer of NEPA, Peter Knight, said the MoU is a very important tool in the protection of the country’s endemic plant species, some of which are under threat.

He argued that using a ‘joined-up government’ approach is an excellent way to maximise resources, and  he is confident the MoU will be a game changer in how research is done locally.

“If we don’t do something to preserve them (plants), they will leave us. I am into joined-up government as we can save on resources. We don’t have to go looking for external expertise as the expertise exists here in Jamaica,” he said.

He pointed out that the MoU was designed around the SRC’s ability to apply its technology and knowhow and NEPA doing the groundwork in providing the necessary ‘feed stock’.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the SRC, Dr. Cliff Riley, said the tissue culture technique has been used to preserve and revive several species of plant life, and to spur economic benefit and food security and safety for the island.  These include ginger, banana, pineapple and ornamental plants.

“Jamaica is a goldmine for scientists, scientific research and development.  Of the 80 plants identified globally with known medicinal properties, 50 are endemic to Jamaica.  There are many opportunities that we have lost because we failed to partner, to collaborate and explore what we have,” he said.

The SRC, he added, has the technology and that the partnership is timely. He pledged that together, the agencies would work to ensure the protection of Jamaica’s endemic plants.

Meanwhile, Board Director of the SRC, Dr. Lanie Oakley-Williams, pointed out that the collaboration will most definitely ensure the survivability of Jamaican flora and fauna, as it would involve the SRC’s tissue culture technique, a safe hedge against natural and human disasters.

She said the Board of Directors is pleased with the initiatives outlined and excited about the impact they will have.