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Earth Today | Emission cuts trump species relocation

Published:Wednesday | April 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

THE DEBATE rages on over migration as a survival option for native animal and plant species, as for humans, in the face of a changing climate, following Dominica's recent decision to do just that for two of its birds.

"To where would vulnerable Jamaicans migrate? To a country that requires a visa or has a policy to accept climate refugees? To a country where they can financially afford to live? To live in a place that is not the country of their birth, in which they have a birthright to reside?" quizzed conservation biologist Dr Susan Koenig.

"To me, migration looks to be something only wealthy people can contemplate seriously ... and if that's the case, I consider that to be completely unjust, leaving the most vulnerable to face the consequences," she added.

On endemic plants and animals, the scientist said: "Where would we take them? To another island that has it is own endemic plants and animals?"

The option to contemplate, she said, is solving the climate problem, which is fuelled by the emissions of greenhouse gases and which puts in particular small-island developing states, such as Jamaica, in jeopardy from impacts such as sea level rise and extreme weather events.

"The only just thing is to clean up our mess so no one, no plant, no animal has to migrate. Migration should be done of free-choice, not because there is no other choice. We all need to work collaboratively to ensure that the major contributors of anthropogenic CO2 and other greenhouse-causing gases reduce emissions so that the polluters pay for their damage," insisted Koenig, who is also the director of research at the Windsor Research Centre, which operates from inside the ecological sensitive and biodiversity-rich Cockpit Country.

 

Stock taking

 

She suggests that Jamaica takes stock of its own endemic species.

"Make sure there are multiple viable populations (ecosystems) across the island. Jamaica should be fully engaged in spatial planning at the landscape level to ensure that large, contiguous forests remain intact and that connectivity is maintained between smaller forest patches, as well as among different forest types. That is, the ridges-to-reefs concept for interior wet forests down to coastal dry woodlands and mangroves," Koenig noted.

"This will ensure that the processes which keep ecosystems healthy, such as the seasonal movements of resident butterflies and birds, the nightly movements of forest-dependent bats), are maintained, and when storms do ravage different parts of the island, some animals will be able to move around or recolonise areas that could experience very isolated, localised extinctions," she added.