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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Do You Know Your Native Plants?

By: Forestry Department/ Roger Graveson
Photos: © Roger Graveson

In the past we have shared information on endemic birds and reptiles. In this issue we would like to introduce you to some of our endemic / native plants.

What is an endemic plant? It is a plant that occurs naturally in one place and nowhere else. An endemic species may restrict to a specific area such as an island or continent.

Vegetation is one of the earth’s most vital natural resources. Only indigenous /endemic vegetation can support local animals, birds and insect populations. Over thousands of years they have developed and adapted together and are reliant on each other for pollination, habitat etc.

As well as maintaining biodiversity vegetation cleans the air, filters water, and stabilizes the soil. This is why it is imperative that our slash and burn agricultural practices and deforestation must cease if we are to maintain a healthy, vibrant environment ensuring a better quality of life.

Local name: Bwa senn
Botanical name: Miconia Luciana
This is a small tree or shrub of lower montane forest and forest edge, and roadsides close to the forest which is very common.

 Local name: Bwa mang, Palitivyé wouj
Botanical name: Chrysochlamys caribaea
Bwa mang is a quite common tree of lower montane, montane and cloud montane rainforest. It is also common in steep ravines and its sap is almost white.

Botanical name: Acalypha elizabethiae
This is a rare shrub of semi-open and shady Caribbean moist forest, semi-open river valleys at lower elevations and, rarely, on exposed slopes in montane tropical rainforest.

Botanical name: Bernardia laurentii

This was discovered by a St Lucian, Laurent Jn Pierre. It is a shrub of open, rocky, dry summit of Petit Piton.  It is quite common but in a very small area.

More information about Endemic plants!


By:   Sarita Williams-Peter, Fisheries Biologist, Department of Fisheries

Valentine’s Day is a day of romance as many loved ones are showered with gifts and a special dinner too. The culinary inclined may whip up an intimate meal; others may just go out to eat. Yet, whatever decided lobsters are usually a part of a luxurious Valentine’s Day meal like “surf and turf”.

The “surf” part of the meal is often the Caribbean spiny lobster, scientific name Panulirus argus. Spiny lobsters lack the distinct big claws of the Maine lobster - the most common lobsters in the U.S.A., but the succulent tail meat of the spiny lobster is sort after by many tourist and locals alike – making the spiny lobster a highly demanded delicacy in St. Lucia.

It’s this high demand coupled with illegal fishing practises that is threatening the population of the Caribbean spiny lobster and its future supply.  One of the strategies adopted to protect the future supply is to limit the time of the year lobster can be caught or used; this is called a close season. The annual close season for lobsters in St. Lucia is from March 1 to August 1. When the season is closed it is illegal to fish for, sell or purchase spiny lobsters.

More than 90-95% of spiny lobsters will die during the transition from baby to adult life. Death is also very high during their teenage life, so that very few actually make it to be adults. Fishing targets the few survivors that become adults. To ensure that the population of lobsters continue to grow we must leave some adults in the sea to reproduce. The close season prevents all the adult lobsters from being removed from the sea and it also coincides with the time of year that reproduction of the Caribbean spiny lobster is at its highest.

So during the month of February enjoy lobster because from March 1 to August 1 the fishery will be closed to give the lobsters time to "enjoy” each other – making more lobsters for years to come.

Contact the Department of Fisheries at Tel. +1758-468-4143 for more information.

World Wetlands Day 2012: Are Wetlands in Peril?!

By: Nicole La Force

Every 2nd of February commemorates “World Wetlands Day” and this year’s theme is: “Wetland Tourism: A great experience”. The fact that tourism is our main foreign exchange earner contributing 30% to our GDP, the potential of wetlands as a great tourism product cannot be overlooked. Responsible tourism supports wetlands and people.

Wetlands which includes; marshes, swamps, peatlands, mangroves etc. are critical habitats to a wide variety of biodiversity including waterbirds. It is important to note that wetlands also provide a host of ecosystem services that directly benefit people and local communities. For example wetlands are great recreational sites for fishing, bird watching, relaxation, research and don’t forget a natural nursery for the breeding and spawning of many fish. Without wetland save havens many species of fish can become extinct and the fishing industry of many countries can be crippled.

In St. Lucia there are two Ramsar sites; the Makoté Mangrove and Savannes Bay in Vieux Fort. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty devoted to the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. This treaty was adopted and signed by 18 countries in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Today with over 160 countries the Convention's member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet.

The convention on wetlands came into force for St. Lucia on June 19th, 2002 where two (2) Ramsar sites designated as wetlands of International Importance with a surface area of 85 hectares were selected. These include the Makoté Mangrove in Vieux Fort, an area of 60 hectares which is a vital nursery for the local fishery as well as a charcoal production resource. The other is the Savannes Bay area comprising of 25 hectares of mangrove forest, sea grass beds and coral reef. Other beautiful and important wetland areas in St. Lucia include Boriel's Pond and La Tourney wetlands all in Vieux Fort.

The Forestry Department is urging everyone to help safeguard our mangroves and other wetland areas. How? Don’t litter, don’t pollute our rivers and waterways with harmful chemicals which contaminate our wetlands. Don’t cut down and destroy our mangroves for what passes as development.

The potential of our wetlands as a tourism product has not been fully realized. There’s the need for their protection and sustainable management for the betterment, not only of the plant and animal species which inhabits such ecosystems but for the country and especially the people of communities adjacent to these wetland areas.

Together let’s do the right thing and protect our wetlands for by so doing we are safeguarding our own future.

Forest Fires

Article By Nicole La Force

Fire! Fire! Not Everywhere!

A great truth in this environmental age in which we live is that it is far better to complement natural systems than to manipulate them for single-purpose gain. Through recognition of ecological interrelationships we are better able to manage natural resources for the good of all.

In the forest ecosystem fire can be both an enemy and a friend. How so? Raging forest fires which indiscriminately consume everything in sight causing almost inestimable damage is no friend. We especially have to be careful now that the dry season (cowhem) is here. If it is anything like the drought we experienced in 2010 then we have to be doubly cautious. During this drought burnt hillsides were evident in many places looking quite ghastly.

 However, prescribed forest fires can be quite beneficial and are actually necessary to keep the forest healthy and growing. Prescribed fire is defined as the knowledgeable and controlled application of fire to a specific land area to accomplish planned resource management objectives. Fire management in full partnership with other environmental factors, is necessary for quality land management. Prevention, protection and fire prescribe for ecological benefits are required to meet the demands of future environmental demands. Climate change is one of the major components to be factored in when it comes to forest fire management.
Prescribed burning can be used to reduce material in the forest which would serve as fuel and encourage the spread of wild or uncontrolled forest fires. Such burnings also opens up the very dense forest canopy providing heat and allowing sunlight to penetrate the lower forest level to encourage the germination of otherwise suppressed forest species.

The Forestry Department continues to put measures in place to minimize the threats of wildfires to St. Lucia’s forest especially with the dry season on and who knows how dry it will get! An early warning system is being developed as well as continued establishment of fire lines and use of fire resistant vegetation such as fat poke is being utilized.

 So dear citizens, when you’re driving or walking, don’t fling your cigarette buts carelessly out the window. Better yet quit smoking it’s bad for your health anyway. Don’t throw glass bottles in the dry grass which can focus the sun’s rays and catch fire to dry kindling.

Let’s continue working together to protect our forest which enriches our lives more than we know!