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Restoration of Grand Bahama pine forest ‘taking shape’

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

A TEAM of biodiversity consultants with the Implementing Land, Water, and Ecosystems Management (IWEco) project is seeing evidence of slow restoration taking shape in the pine forest and mangroves in East Grand Bahama.

The experts conducted week-long field surveys of the pineland and wetland areas in the east.

“In the pinelands and mangroves that make East Grand Bahama so distinctly unique, nature is replenishing itself from the massive destruction of Hurricane Dorian,” a statement issued by the group recently noted.

The biodiversity experts and scientists who conducted field assessments have indicated they are seeing new life springing up. However, they also reported fears that some species of birds might have died out as a result.

During a new phase of field surveys in East Grand Bahama, the team assessed pinelands and wetlands, collecting detailed information on the habitats and the life forms they support for a biodiversity inventory that will be published as part of the project.

Mark Daniels, a biodiversity consultant with BRON Ltd, said: “We have yet to see a standing pine tree that remains alive. In different types of pine habitats, however, you’re seeing different rates of recovery, with seedlings beginning to be established, and these seedlings are typically anywhere from eight to 12 inches tall, and some we’ve seen are two to three feet tall.”

The team spent more than a week conducting point counts, walking transects, and vegetation plots to better understand the recovery process of pine and wetland areas in East Grand Bahama since Hurricane Dorian.

Mr Daniels reported that while the outer fringes of those mangrove systems remain dead, in the more protected interior regions of the mangrove patches, they are seeing mangroves returning.

Additionally, he reported that those creek systems—where there are mangrove habitats that are inland and protected from the full force of the sea—are also recovering and looking very healthy.

The team has also reported seeing several species of wetland and forest birds, as well as endemics such as the Bahama Yellowthroat and Bahama Woodstar. As well as pine saplings that are growing in areas where the trees were dead.

Information gathered on wildlife in East Grand Bahama will also be included in the biodiversity inventory to be made public.

Scott Johnson, a biodiversity consultant with BRON Ltd, reported sighting more birds in the area. He also noted that several pineland species were absent.

“We are seeing a lot more birds in the area, but most of them are winter migrants from North America coming to The Bahamas, and their presence increases our avian fauna by over 50 per cent,” he said.

“What’s also interesting is that some of the highest diversity of birds we are seeing is in patches of coppice areas in East Grand Bahama. These birds are occupying sites that have a variety of plant species that are producing flowers and some fruits, so they have food resources.”

Mr Johnson said although the Bahama Yellowthroat and Bahama Woodstar have been observed in the area, other pineland species of birds have not, since Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

“I fear that they may have been extirpated from the East Grand Bahama area. Until that pineland ecosystem comes back, which may allow for new immigration of birds in that area, the chances are that we may not see Bahama Warblers, Olive-Capped Warblers, or Cuban Emeralds in that area for a while,” said Mr Johnson.

The IWEco Bahamas project is part of a larger, regional undertaking for the Caribbean funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the statement said.

For The Bahamas, the leading partners are the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection, the Forestry Unit, the Ministry of Public Works, and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

The project aims to develop and implement integrated systems that support ecosystem health and strengthen national monitoring, and evaluation systems. Other goals include policy, legislative and institutional reforms to increase capacity for sustainable natural resource management, and deepen the knowledge that is key for effective stakeholder involvement.

Comments

TimesUp 2 years, 7 months ago

I eagerly await the report being made public. I see no evidence of pine tree recovery from flooding 10 and 15 years ago let alone since Dorian. I would like to know how the destruction of the mangroves will affect future flooding from the north shore and how long the mangrove will take to regrow.

I fear that since Dorian there has been nothing that I am aware of, no environmental impact for future threat, no change to zoning, no plan to mitigate future flooding.

The fact that relators are selling land in the flood zones without warning is troubling. Buyer beware I guess.

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