TNC Sponsors Workshop for Staff of NEPA and Forestry Dept.


Staff members from the Forestry Department and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) are to benefit from two workshops this month on plant identification in the Cockpit Country, sponsored by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Jamaica.
The workshop is part of TNC’s efforts to conserve the biodiversity of Jamaica, especially the Cockpit Country. This includes building the technical capacity of relevant government and non-government agencies. It is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under their international Parks-in-Peril Programme.
Ten of the participants, who are from the Forestry Department, commenced training this week, while officers from NEPA are expected to begin next week, and conclude on May 20. Dr. Tracey Parker, forest ecologist and author of the text, ‘Manual of Dendrology-Jamaica’ is currently in the island from Central America to conduct the workshop. Assisting her is Dr. George Proctor, consultant botanist at the Herbarium at the Institute of Jamaica.
Speaking to JIS News, Dr. Parker, who lived in Jamaica for four years while conducting research, said that the group would be studying collection techniques for plants, to support biodiversity assessments in not only the Cockpit Country, but also islandwide.
“They will be learning the technique of plant collection practised all over the world. The participants will be able to use this technique in the Cockpit Country and will learn a lot about the vegetation that grows there,” she informed. Collecting a good specimen, she said, could not be over emphasized, when pursuing plant investigations.”You could describe the plant at the site and say that it looks like or grows like something, but without the pressed dry specimen, to take to the laboratory and compare with the standard examples, you will not be able to confirm what plant it is,” she noted.
Dr. Parker also said that the participants would learn to identify various plants found in the Cockpit Country area.
“We will be looking at how to identify plants, based on their leaf shape, flowers and other characteristics as well as at the ecology of the area in terms of what plants are invasive, what plants are endangered, what plants are invaluable to mankind and how they survive,” she explained.
Apart from the several lectures and practicals organised during the workshop, participants will visit the Herbarium at the Institute of Jamaica. The Herbarium is home to the national collection of over 125,000 dried plants, some of which date back to the 1700s. This is the most comprehensive collection in the Caribbean.
There will also be short field trips around Christiana in Manchester, in addition to an all day field trip to Burnt Hill and Mango Tree Hill in the Cockpit Country.
Dr. Parker has not ruled out discovering new plants in the Cockpit Country, which is an ecological treasure chest.
“It is not impossible that we will make new discoveries. The vegetation of the Cockpit Country is unique. I am confident that these students during their career working in the area, could definitely find new species,” she said.
The students, she added, would be expected to pass on the training received to their colleagues and community members in the areas in which they work.
The Cockpit Country is globally important as a centre of Jamaican endemism because it has more than 1,500 recorded plant species, 400 of which are only found in Jamaica, and 106 only in the Cockpit Country.
Saving such areas of global importance is the primary aim of the Parks-in-Peril programme, which focuses on protected areas throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

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