Discovery Bay Marine Lab opens biodiversity boardwalk
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION and ecotourism in Jamaica have received an exciting boost, with the June 20 official opening of a 300-metre-long Biodiversity Boardwalk at the University of the West Indies' (UWI's) Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory in St Ann.
The boardwalk made possible with funding from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) via the Forestry Conservation Fund (FCF) winds its way through mangrove and dry limestone forest habitat near the laboratory.
"It is the first phase of a three-part project that was first conceptualised and submitted to the Jamaica Protected Areas Trust, who were FCF administrators in 2011, as the Northern Limestone Forest Conservation Project," the EFJ revealed in a news release.
"Phase two will be the construction of a coastal forest interpretive visitor facility. In the final phase, a circular boardwalk will be built out to sea, linking phases one and two," it added.
Just over J$21.6 million was committed to the project, to run over a three-year period.
"The overall goal of the project is to establish an environmentally friendly, certified and approved facility that will provide opportunities for academic research through displays focusing on the land and sea features of coastal areas," the EFJ said.
"Through the interpretive visitor centre, the project aims to explain and educate the general public, including students, and to generate income from tourists interested in learning about Jamaican ecosystems," the entity added.
The project also aims to create a biodiversity reservoir, to conserve and manage 14 acres of coastal forest.
Many coastal areas are undergoing development activities that often displace flora and fauna, and it is hoped that the facility will serve as a sanctuary and temporary depository for important and protected species especially those that are injured and recovering. A detailed mapping of the area will identify the location and number of these vulnerable species.
"The EFJ has two focal areas - the environment and child survival and development - and every so often we get projects that can twin these areas. We believe the work by the Discovery Bay Marine Lab will do this and we are proud to support this project. We have funded the cost of Phase One and we look forward to the successful implementation of the second and third phases," noted EFJ's chief executive officer Barrington Lewis.
The Discovery Bay Marine Lab is a programme of the UWI Centre for Marine Sciences. It is dedicated to supporting research and the teaching of biology, chemistry, ecology, geology, hydrology, and geography. The facility also seeks to apply the knowledge gleaned to the management of the natural resources in Jamaica's important and vulnerable coastal zones.