Environment

PBPA mangroves have carbon sequestration value

US$45 million a year!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014    

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THE International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's authority on biodiversity conservation, has written to Jamaica's environment minister on the subject of the trans-shipment port planned for the Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA).

The organisation argued that given the ecological services to Jamaica and the global importance of the area in terms of its variety of plant and animal species, Portland Bight should be left in tact.

It warned, too, that if the government goes ahead with the plans, the country stands to miss the targets under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 agreed to Aichi Prefecture, Japan in October 2010.

Some of those targets are to: ·

At least halve and, where feasible, bring close to zero the rate of loss of natural habitats, including forests; · Establish a conservation target of 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas; · Restore at least 15 per cent of degraded areas through conservation and restoration activities · Make special efforts to reduce the pressures faced by coral reefs.

“As a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity,” the IUCN letter said, “the continuance of such actions is critical to Jamaica achieving its commitments outlined in the Strategic Plan on Biodiversity and its accompanying Aichi Biodiversity Targets”.

“The PBPA is considered of global importance because it is the Caribbean's largest contiguous swath of intact dry forest and is critical for the survival of many threatened species, including several that are endemic to the region (and are therefore found nowhere else in the world),” the letter, dated January 29, said.

These include species such as the Critically Endangered Jamaican Iguana Cyclura collei, the Portland Ridge Frog Eleutherodactylus cavernicol, the Jamaican Brown Trope (Thunder Snake) Trophidophis jamaicensis, the Blue- Tailed Galliwasp Celestus duquesneyi and the Bahama Mockingbird Mimus gundlachii hillii...

“The vegetation of the PBPA provides tens of millions USD annually in carbon sequestration services — the sequestration value of mangrove forests alone, which comprise a fraction of the total PBPA vegetation, was recently estimated to be US$45 million per year.

The area’s shoreline features sea grass beds and coral reefs that provide protection from storm surges, hurricanes, flooding and beach erosion. The Goat Islands area is a major nursery and critical habitat area for numerous marine species important in commercial fisheries, including snapper, grunt, lobster, shrimp, and oysters.

This area has potential for an increase in sustainable tourism, particularly because of its proximity to Kingston.

The PBPA has been recognised as a Key Biodiversity Area (by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund), an Important Bird Area (by BirdLife International), an Alliance for Zero Extinction site, and a Wetlands of International Importance (identified by the Ramsar Convention). Such designations have attracted much investment from the international conservation and donor communities. We are also aware that government agencies have worked extensively to prepare materials to establish the PBPA as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. With this in mind, IUCN respectfully asks that the decisions you make regarding the PBPA are in accord with the commitments that Jamaica has already made to safeguard and restore its biodiversity for the long-term benefit of present and future generations.

The IUCN said it agreed “strongly with the collective knowledge of government and non-government stakeholders that the PBPA should not be developed in a way that is environmentally harmful and unsustainable”.

“There should be a balance between protecting ecosystems and livelihoods, and creating new sources of income,” it said, advising the Government to conduct a “transparent and thorough” Strategic Environmental Assessment if it decides to go ahead with the plans.

“We fear that not doing so sets a very dangerous precedent for all protected areas of Jamaica,” it continued.

The letter, signed by IUCN director general Julia Marton-Lefèvre and chair of the Species Survival Commission Simon Stuart, was also copied to the prime minister of Jamaica, the minister of transport works and housing and the minister of youth and culture.

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