“We will be taking that information and putting it into the scientific literature and getting official scientific names on species and discovering what occurs here that doesn’t occur anywhere else,” said Professor Mike Ivie of Montana State University in the United States.
That was one the key messages he shared with students from several primary and secondary schools attending an Open Day for the Conserving Biodiversity Project held on Wednesday (March 01) at the Department of Agriculture. Professor Ivie, and his team from Montana State University, are busy snaring various bugs and beetles, while working alongside agencies including the Department of Environment and the St. Kitts Forest Rangers.
Professor Ivie said any changes to the environmental landscape, no matter how small, can have a significant impact, which makes it important to identify and protect special areas where there is a unique biodiversity.
“When we lose a hectare of land to development or something here, it could be, if it is placed in the wrong place, very important to global biodiversity. Much more important than a random hectare of forest in the Congo (a country in Africa) or in the Amazon [forest] in Brazil where they have a lot of species, way more species than we have here, but those species are very wide spread and they are on tens of thousands of square kilometers,” Professor Ivie stated. “So you lose a hectare and it doesn’t really affect it. Here [in St. Kitts and Nevis] those things only occur in a very narrow area and so therefore it is very important globally and they need to be documented, explained and then celebrated and protected.”
The project falls under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The habitats being surveyed are the Central Forest Reserve National Park, Nevis Peak, Camps River and the Booby Island Nature Reserve. The flora and fauna in these areas as well as those fitting the reptile classification are being catalogued by different teams.
Claudia Drew is coordinating the local project.
“We’re doing the project on behalf of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to establish protected areas and a protected areas agency,” she said. “It is important for us to conserve our biodiversity because we have to ensure that we have measures in place against climate change and the impacts of climate change and also for us to continue to have a pristine environment because one of our main industries is tourism and obviously tourists don’t want to [go] to someplace that is unkempt and degraded and that’s what the emphasis is, to reduce our impact on the environment and to reduce the level of degradation.”
Some of the students admitted that they weren’t sure what to expect at the Open Day but said they learnt quite a bit.
Kiana Rogers a 2nd Form student at the Basseterre High School, said that she gained new knowledge about global warming, the dangers of climate change, and the importance of protecting natural habitats. Her classmate Shaheem Prentice said persons should go out and learn more about the details of the project as it was important for locals to understand their environment. T’Anna Buchanan of the Charles E. Mills Secondary School, said she appreciates the role of insects now even more in the environment as “everything has a purpose in life.”
The Conserving Biodiversity Project is a four year project and is expected to conclude in 2018.