|Reefs: Another link in our livelihoods|
|Written by Marsha Pardee and Kathleen Wood|
|Thursday, 16 September 2010 08:36|
TCI Protected Areas
In the last few articles, we have focused on the many natural attributes found right here in our own outback — the national parks and nature reserves of western Providenciales.
Although separated by yellow park boundary lines on the map, Chalk Sound National Park, Pigeon Pond and Frenchman’s Creek Nature Reserve, North West Point Pond Nature Reserve and North West Point Marine National Park are all vital habitats inextricably linked through the many resources they possess.
In coastal lowlands, the terrestrial life cascades into more water borne worlds and eventually makes its way to the sea. In return, the ocean’s influence helps sculpt the more landward features while renewing and enriching the coastal region. The sheer artistry of all the maze-like, minute interconnections is astounding and truly a creation masterpiece.
North West Point Marine National Park and the rest of the fringing reefs that extend along the western part of this archipelago play a major part in this incredible landscape. For starters, the outer reefs help protect the land from hurricanes and storm surges that would whittle or gouge it away. This barrier of reefs jutting up from the depths creates a more placid moat around the islands that help dissipate wave energy as it advances towards land.
Secondly, the reefs help provide the stretches of sand that make the string of beaches along our coasts. Sand is created through several sources. One method is via erosion of the coral reefs and ledges that line the edges of our archipelago. Another is through a chemical process that gloms calcium carbonate on a tiny speck of coral or shell to create a larger grain. The third method is much more visible in the end, as in the end of the digestive tract of many marine creatures that feed on corals and algae.
Chemically, the reefs help clean the seawater that then renews and refreshes more inshore areas, including some inland areas. Many of the natural salinas were once overwash areas until land built up around them. The saltrakers of old learned to harness the ocean’s waters to increase the harvest of salts.
Biologically, there are literally trillions of links, with hundreds found in a single drop of water. Microscopically, we find alien looking larval babes (and their eggs before they hatch) in a thick briney soup of algae and other edible bits. These tiny drops become stew for the bigger critters that eventually become the feasts for the real beasts of the sea. Birds also feed in the ocean, bringing enriched spoors to their nests on land as the cycle continues.
Economically, the reefs are directly linked to human survival. Foremost is its food on our tables if all other imports came to an end. It’s also the means of livelihood for several hundred people employed in the fishing industry. Add to that those involved in the water sports industry, and don’t forget to include the entire hospitality trade that provides food and lodging for the tourists that come here.
Although all visitors don’t come here for diving, almost all are here for the beautiful beaches and opalescent waters, both of which are a direct product and result of our reefs. A large portion of our island economy is woven into the web sustained by our reefs.
As we flow from open ocean to land and back again, we cross many physical, chemical, biological and economical connections that are interdependent on the next link. Destroy or damage a link in the system and inevitably there will be changes down the line that will alter and shift the fragile ecological balance. Although Mother Nature often wreaks her own havoc on the environment, it’s human influence that often tips the balance.
North West Point Marine National Park is just one piece of this vast landscape puzzle. But its direct links with the other Protected Areas in our western outback ensures that we have at least one very well connected and protected ecosystem left in its entirety to function as a whole.
As a Protected Area, it will continue to sustain and maximize the human benefits derived, while minimizing the human impacts to the area.
Click HERE to read other articles in the TCI Protected Areas series.
For more information on Protected Areas, visit www.environment.tc/Protected-Areas-Division.html
Marine ecologist Marsha Pardee, M.Sc., is a Permanent Resident of the TCI, living here for nearly 20 years. She is a member of the government’s Scientific Authority Committee and a consultant for environmental management and aquaculture projects, working for both public and private sectors. She has taught many of the country’s children in local schools and in the DECR’s Junior Park Warden Program on Providenciales.
Terrestrial ecologist and Master Gardener Kathleen Wood, B.Sc., is a Permanent Resident of the TCI, dividing her time between the Turks and Caicos and North Carolina. She is the author of many publications including the book, “Flowers of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.” She has worked for the public and private sectors on many environmental projects in the Bahamas, TCI and U.S. Anyone interested in discussion on a broad range of environmental issues can follow Kathleen on her blog at www.killingmother.blogspot.com.
|Last Updated on Monday, 27 September 2010 13:46|
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TCI Protected Areas Series
The fp is publishing a series of articles on the Turks and Caicos Islands Protected Area System to increase public awareness and respect for the beauty and value of this "beautiful by nature" country.
The authors, marine ecologist Marsha Pardee and terrestrial ecologist Kathleen Wood, are long-time TCI residents and respected scientists in their fields.
Below are links to their articles, plus related news articles, documents and laws.
- 29/7/10: Chalk Sound National Park: Beauty and ecology
- 22/7/10: Protected Areas designations and differences
- 15/7/10: Long-term prosperity vs. short-term gain
- 8/7/10: Protected Areas save environment, generate revenue
- 5/8/10: Frenchman’s Creek: Prime real estate of TCI wetlands
Related news articles
- 1/7/10: Expert report warned about encroachment on protected areas
- 8/7/10: More than 250 lots carved in Provo parks
Links to environmental documents and laws