Environment

Trees protect against STORMS

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

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Annual tree-planting exercises in Jamaica this weekend will take on added significance against the background of the widespread damage wrought by category five hurricanes Irma and Maria in several Caribbean countries over the past few weeks.

Friday, October 6 and Saturday, October 7 will be observed as National Tree Planting Day and National Wood and Water Day, respectively.

In the usual discussion about the benefits that trees provide, stakeholders are stressing the role they play in protecting against wind and storm surges during hurricanes.

As communication specialist for the GOJ/GEF/IDB/Integrated Management of the Yallahs and Hope River Watershed Management Areas Project at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) Patrice Gilpin puts it:

“The roots of trees help hold the soil together, particularly on hillsides, where they prevent landslides and land slippages. Trees also act as windbreaks by reducing the speed and strength of winds thereby providing protection for houses and other property. They also help to minimise the impact of storm surges. The same is true of mangroves on our coasts where much of our tourism product thrives. So, more mangroves and healthy mangroves will decrease the impact of storms and hurricanes on our coasts.”

Gilpin added: “If you look at the affected areas, places that were once green are now brown, but imagine that if there weren't as many trees the damage would have been that much worse.”

For National Tree Planting Day, the GOJ/GEF/IDB project will be pushing its Million Tree Challenge, encouraging schools, sporting fraternities, companies, civil society and individuals to plant a million trees islandwide by June 30, 2019.

Launched on May 25 this year, the challenge already has 15, 691 trees registered.

“The aim is to improve the island's biodiversity, combat the effects of climate change – especially with the frequency and strength of hurricanes affecting the region — and improve the island's air and water quality,” Gilpin told the Jamaica Observer.

She made the point that while one million trees do sound like a tall order, it is not impossible to achieve this goal with combined effort, and referenced other countries that are pursuing a similar goal — England, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Germany, China and numerous states in the USA.

“One large tree can soak up 1,800 litres of storm water every year, which means that one million trees would capture 757,082,000 litres in 10 years. One large tree provides oxygen for at least four people to breathe, which means that one million trees will provide oxygen for four million Jamaicans,” said Gilpin.

Million Tree Challenge falls under the project's Trees for Life campaign and is synergised with the UN supported campaign that is seeking to plant one trillion trees — 150 for every person on Earth.

To participate, individuals are required to plant fruit, timber, ornamental/flowering, or mangrove trees and register their planting on the Million Tree page on the NEPA website. Trees planted between January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019 will be counted towards the target.

National Tree Planting Day is coordinated by the Forestry Department and will be observed under the theme, “Today's Trees, Tomorrow's Future”.

The agency has been issuing an assortment of timber and ornamental tree seedlings for the event since Monday, September 25. from its head office at 173 Constant Spring Road in St Andrew, and branches in Moneague, St Ann (adjacent to the JDF camp) as well as Williamsfield, Manchester.

Distribution will continue until Friday, October 13, with the exception of Friday, October 6.

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