Caribbean mangroves need to be restored.
While underscoring the government’s commitment to restoring mangroves, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Matthew Samuda says it will not be an easy task.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer On Tuesday – a day designated as the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem – Samuda pointed out that the process of replanting mangroves can be difficult, given that the plants have a high mortality rate when they are put back into the l ‘natural environment.
“The work that needs to be done on the mangroves is going to take a lot longer because the very planting, the catching up of the suckers and the redistribution of the mangroves have a much higher mortality rate when they are put back in the fields, which will it takes 10-20 years to achieve that restoration goal but that’s why we have to preserve what we have and we have to work – especially when you can create areas where they restore naturally, it’s much faster to do it [than] when we try to do it from a lab,” he explained.
“The truth is that we know very well what the problems are and we are working around the clock to put the solutions in place. Mangroves are much more difficult to replant than ordinary trees, while the government has touched approximately very close to half of its goal of three million trees – that’s why you actually have small increases in your secondary forest because those forests spread, thicken again, etc., especially as you convert farmland back not used in the forest – you see increases there,” he added.
The mangroves are said to play a key role in protecting Jamaica from the risk of flooding, storms and possible tsunamis – risks that increase dramatically if the mangroves are lost.
According to the World Bank’s 2019 report, Forces of Nature: Coastal Resilience Benefits of Mangroves in Jamaica, more than 770 hectares of mangroves have been lost in Jamaica over the past two decades.
Samuda said this type of loss has been mainly attributed to climate change, which includes sea level rise which increases water salinity in the mangrove root structure, solid waste and poor management of waste. Additionally, the loss of mangroves is due to issues of communities facing great poverty, thus preying on mangroves for charcoal and firewood.
The said report, however, revealed that more than 70% of these mangroves could be potentially restorable. Most of Jamaica’s restoration work is concentrated on the south coast of the island.
“The government is working with Professor [Terrence] Forrester of UWI SODECO to repair and restore 3,800 hectares of mangroves in South Clarendon, specifically across from Jackson Bay to Rocky Point. That’s why we’re working with the Forest Department to do the assessments and put in place the strategies for South St. Catherine – from Hellshire Heights to Old Harbor Bay. That’s why we’re working with the UWI Marine Biology Lab in your need for restoration along the Palisadoes stretch, which is also a Ramsar site,” Samuda said, adding that the north coast is also being monitored.
SAMUDA…the work on the mangroves will take much longer (Photo: Karl Mclarty)