Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Development depleting Jamaica's swamp forests

Published:Thursday | February 2, 2017 | 2:14 PM
Frigates fly about in Portland Bight, southern Jamaica, which was designated a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar convention 10 years ago.

The construction of hotels and other infrastructure has left Jamaica more exposed to flooding with the Forestry Department reporting a 95.5 per cent decline in swamp forests over the last 15 years.

Swamp forests are inundated with freshwater and are usually located along the lower reaches of rivers and around freshwater lakes.

The Forestry Department says data from its latest Land Use Assessment Survey show that over the past 15 years, Jamaica has lost 2,124.1 hectares of swamp forest, leaving this forest type at only 122 point 9 hectares.

This accounts for less than 0.1 per cent of the 40 per cent of Jamaica's total forest cover.

The survey found that the decline is as a result of the construction of hotels and other infrastructure.

CEO and Conservator of Forests, Marilyn Headley says there must be a balance between development and the conservation of forests.

Headley says swamp forests are greatly undervalued and under-appreciated when compared to mangrove forests, which occur along the coast, and have seen an increase of 1.4 per cent over the last 15 years.

Why wetlands are important:
1. They maintain fresh water supplies as they catch and store rain water, refill underground reserves and protect them from salty water.

2. They also act as sponges that hold flood waters, preventing the likelihood of flooding.