Mon | Feb 24, 2020

Earth Today | IOJ celebrates International Day for Biodiversity

Published:Thursday | May 23, 2019 | 12:21 AM
NHMJ team members on their visit to the Mason River Protected Area in Clarendon on Tuesday.
An aerial shot of the Mason River Protected Area in Clarendon.

THE NATURAL History Museum of Jamaica (NHMJ) is doing its bit to build awareness of the need for scaled-up efforts to ensure the conservation of local biological diversity, notably plants, animals and microorganisms, in the face of a changing climate.

As part of those efforts, the entity celebrated International Biodiversity Day yesterday with a field visit by team members to the Mason River Protected Area in Clarendon a day earlier.

The Mason River Protected Area is one of the field stations directly managed by the NHMJ.

“This area was chosen for a special expedition in order to better garner knowledge of the biodiversity of the area,” explained outreach education officer, Eartha Cole.

Mason River is Jamaica’s only documented upland wetland of its type, comprising scrub savanna, marsh and a peat bog. The wetland itself spans some 49 hectares of the larger 82-hectare site on which it is located.

“It provides habitat for several unique plant species of a regenerating forest, as well as several endemic birds and insects. This area also includes several species of the moss Sphagnum, including the only known location of native, insectivorous plant species,” Cole noted.

With the threat of species loss posed by a changing climate – which comes with impacts including increased temperatures, sea level rise and extreme weather events – the expedition to the area, she said, was important. And this, in line with this year’s theme for International Day for Biodiversity, ‘Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health’.

“This year’s theme focuses on biodiversity as the basis for our food and health and as an important catalyst to transforming our food systems and improving our general well-being,” Cole said.

“It has been noted that in recent years, biodiversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels have all been in decline. This greatly impacts our agricultural systems and directly affects our ability to respond to shocks and stresses, such as climate change,” she added.

From this year’s observance of the day, Cole said the hope was that they could “capture and share” their knowledge on “Jamaica’s current status with regard to biodiversity”.

“Climate change and shifts in weather conditions threaten our natural environment, our animals, and our beautiful surroundings. Additional negative human impact influences the degradation of our natural beauty and the extinction of our endemic species. Jamaica is rich in biodiversity, with high rates of terrestrial endemism in the Caribbean in species that are found nowhere else in the world,” the education outreach officer said.

“We are home to over 3,000 vascular plant species, over 500 species of ferns, hundreds of species of butterflies, and over 300 species of land, shore and seabirds, 30 of which are endemic. It is important to keep good records of our biodiversity throughout the island, so we can be able to tell if there are any changes occurring and how we can put conservation efforts in place,” she added.