Humanity's fate is tightly linked with biological diversity.Biodiversity is essential for sustainable development and human well-being. Many are not aware of the many benefits of biodiversity and it is for this reason the United Nations has designated May 22 each year as International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
This year's theme, Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, reflects the importance of efforts made at all levels to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals as part of the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda for the period of 2015-2030, and the relevance of biodiversity for the achievement of sustainable development.
Biodiversity contributes to our economic and social needs in many ways, such as:
�2 Biodiversity is a vital asset in global and local economies
�2 Food production depends on biodiversity and the services provided by ecosystems
�2 Clean and secure supplies of water also depend on biodiversity
�2 Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning provide goods and services essential for human health–including nutrients, clean air and water and regulation of pests and vector-based diseases
�2 Biodiversity is the basis for sustainable livelihoods
�2 Traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity is also important and has value not only to those who depend on it in their daily lives but to modern industry and agriculture as well
�2 Biodiversity is the cornerstone of the work, belief systems and basic survival of many women
�2 Biodiversity plays a major role in mitigating climate change by contributing to long-term sequestration of carbon in a number of biomes (regions of the world with similar climate (weather, temperature) animals and plants)
�2 Even the built environments of our cities are linked to and affected by biodiversity
In T&T the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has played a significant role in protecting biological species and areas through legislation, namely the Environmentally Sensitive Species Rules, 2001, and the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Rules, 2001.
The EMA has designated ten species as environmentally-sensitive: the ocelot, the pawi, the manatee, the white-tailed sabrewing hummingbird, the golden tree frog, and five species of sea turtles–the loggerhead, the green, the leatherback, the hawksbill and the olive ridley. Three areas are designated as environmentally sensitive: the Nariva Swamp Managed Resource Protected Area, the Aripo Savannas Strict Nature Reserve and the Matura National Park.
Specifically within the Nariva Swamp the EMA's National Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, Wildlife and Livelihoods Project aims to develop a sustainable management plan for this environmentally sensitive area.
Some of the major deliverables of this project are: a national wildlife survey, a wildlife centre, and a species research and data-capture programme. Other activities include training the communities within the project area to: replant areas of the swamp, undergo fire suppression training, and conduct public outreach activities within the surrounding communities.
Another component of the project is carbon sequestration which refers to the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Once captured, the CO2 gas (or the carbon portion of the CO2) is put into long-term storage.
Carbon sequestration is important as it could potentially reduce the levels of carbon in the atmosphere and greenhouse gas emissions. The project looks at increasing the accuracy of the measurement of the quantum of carbon sequestered, developing specific gravity to carbon content relationships and species specific carbon fraction ratios for a number of targeted wetland tree species. This project serves as a model for other areas to develop sustainable communities within these protected areas and to help create sustainable livelihoods for those that live there.
As mentioned, the project also includes a national wildlife survey. For far too long hunters, both registered and unregistered, have been allowed free reign illegally hunting outside the hunting season (October 1, to February). They have been severely depleting the forest wildlife without giving ample time for healthy growth of the various populations.
The government of the Republic of T&T introduced a hunting ban for two years to help replenish the populations. During this time, the EMA has introduced this national survey to track the numbers of wildlife in existence and to monitor their population patterns. This is the first study of its kind in T&T and involves documenting sightings for the following five game mammals: lappe, deer, quenk, tattoo and agouti. This three-year initiative was designed to conduct scientific research on the density and distribution of these animals and by extension the wider wildlife population of T&T.
Thus far, wildlife surveys were completed in Blanchisseuse, Nariva, Rochard Douglas Forest Reserve, Southern Watershed Game Sanctuary, Trinity Hills Game Sanctuary, Victoria-Mayaro Forest Reserve, Central Range and Matura Nature Reserve.
Maintaining the objective of the sustainable development of the communities directly impacted, several CBOs were engaged, trained and employed in the project. Consultations were held in Mayaro, Valencia, Siparia, Tableland, San Fernando and Kernahan, and approximately 120 people were trained in data collection and survey methods.
Forests, wetlands and mangroves also play a critical role in reducing the impacts of extreme events such as droughts, floods and tsunamis.Biodiversity for sustainable development is a critical aspect for our environment within this small-island developing state, and we need to be more aware of our wildlife and their habitat, of what measures are in place to protect them, and ensure more is done to protect these species.
For more info, visit www.ema.co.tt